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DAIM. 7. II. 55. 

1 , 000 . 







Nabendu Datta-Majumder 


wsrfo croft 

Published by the Manager of Publications, Delhi. 
Printed by the Government of India Press, Calcutta, India, 


Re-printed by: Girj Print Service: 91 A, Baithakkhana 
Road, Kolkata-700 009 

Reprinted in:2009 

Price Rs. 310/ 








Foreword .......... . . yii 


A Guide to Pronunciation ........ , xiii 

Chapter I Introductory ......... 1 

II History and Distribution of the Santal ..... 21 

III Santal Cultural Heritage ....... 33 

IV The Impinging Forces. . 53 

V The Santal of Birbhum : Material Culture and Eoonomio Life • 65 

VI The Santal of Birbhum : Social Life.80 

VII Tho Santal of Birbhum : Beligion..98 

VIII Santal Acoulturation ........ 109 

IX Conclusion . . . . ..123 


Map showing Santal Territories in India.140 

Map showing the Distribution of Santal Population ..... 141 

Map showing B5lpur Area in Birbhum ....... 142 

Index ....»••••••»• 143 

Plates. following page 150 

List of Plates 

Plate I 

Plate II 

Plate III 

Plate IV 

Plate V 
Plate VI 

Plate VII 

Plate VIII 

Plate IX 

Plate X 

Plate XI 

Plate XII 
Plate XIII 

Plate XIV 

Plate XV 
Plate XVI 
Plate XVII 
Plate XVIII 

Plate XIX 

Sectional view of Santal village 
A Santal village at forenoon 
The kitchen-garden of a Santal house 
Temporary sheds for village worship 
A Santal family at Kuotola 

Santal boys 
Santal maidens 

The author With a group of Santal boys 

Santal mother suckling her baby 

Filling the earthen pitchers with drinking water 

A Santal girl carrying water 

Harvesting the winter paddy 

A storage place for paddy 

Pounding rice with a husking lever 

Cooking dinner 

A Santal doing his own carpentry 
A Santal weaving a fishing net 
Santal community fishing in the river Kopai 
Santal women saluting their superiors 

Santal women washing the feet of the male members of a 
bridegroom’s party just arrived 

Santal women washing the feet of the female members of a 
bridegroom’s party just arrived 

Members of a bridegroom’s party resting 

A marriage feast 

Wrestling by Santal youngsters 

Playing the flute 

Santal Brati-Balak 

Santal girls preparing for dance 

A group of Santal drummers 

Dancing by Santal boys and girls 

Dancing by Santal girls 

A Santal priest (Naeke) preparing for worship 

Divination with a sal leaf 

A Santal possessed by a bofiga 

Washing the feet of the village priest after a village 

Washing the feet of the water carrier accompanying the 

A Santal ojha offering sacrifices to boiigas 
A mourning scene 



Two principal objectives have characteristically 
marked the work of scientists. The first is to obtain, 
by means of a well-defined and constantly sharpened 
methodology and in terms of clearly stated hypotheses, 
the facts concerning the phenomenon under study, and 
to order these facts so as to reveal their nature, functioning 
and dynamic qualities. The second objective is to derive 
from the ordering of the facts, in the light of the stated 
hypotheses, those generalizations, sometimes called “ laws,” 
that express the broad principles under which the pheno¬ 
mena as observed are to be accounted for. These, in 
turn, permit an ever more accurate predication of the results 
that should issue when they are played on by differing 
forces under varying conditions—forces that, in the exact 
and natural sciences, are controlled through laboratory 
experimentation, or in the historic sciences, are manifest 
through circumstances of change outside the range of 
scientific manipulation. 

The science of man, which like astronomy or geology, 
is an historic science, follows this tradition. Its develop¬ 
ment tells a story of the continuous testing of hypotheses 
through the search for data concerning the range of human 
behaviour as determined by social convention, and the 
particular historic circumstances that have brought into 
play the dynamic forces that have resulted in cultural 
change, the data being analyzed, in terms of increasingly 
well-defined conceptual schemes, into a series of ordered 
correlates. Out of this have come the generalizations as 
to the nature and functioning of culture that have yielded 
continuously greater insights into the unities of human 
experience that underlie the diversity of their manifes¬ 
tations. These generalizations, applied to given situations 
of cultural change, are now beginning to give leads toward 
prediction, as evidenced in the growing recognition of the 
contribution anthropology can make toward the resolution 

of specific problems faced by those concerned with practical 

This study of Santal acculturation by Dr. Datta- 
Majumder is in the best tradition of modern anthropolo¬ 
gical science. Thus, at the outset of the book, we are 
given a clear statement of the hypotheses to be tested—that 
cultural borrowing is selective, that it is effectuated through 
the mechanisms of retention and reinterpretation, that 
contact, of itself, does not necessarily result in radical 
adjustment in the ways of life of the peoples concerned, 
and that cultural relearning in these situations is a function 
of incentive, and need not necessarily be disruptive. Or, 
again, we see how the use of those hypotheses to guide’ 
the analysis of the data in testing their validity is made 
explicit by the statement of the spatial and temporal vari¬ 
ables that have entered into the experience of the Santal 
in shifting their culture from its earlier “ base-line ” to 
its present focal orientations. 

As good scientific procedure also dictates, Dr. Datta- 
Majumder builds on existing knowledge, using earlier 
research as a base on which to erect a structure of more 
refined analysis and deeper understanding. This is apparent 
from his bibliography no less than from his discussion, 
and is especially worthy of note since in recent years some 
anthropologists have tended to neglect the work of those 
who have earlier studied the peoples of their concern. 
That these earlier students employed less efficient techniques 
than are today available and were even sometimes guilty 
of quite inacceptable procedures, is not to be denied. But 
the effective use Dr. Datta-Majumder makes, let us say, 
of Bodding’s reports demonstrates how work by those 
who were not professional anthropolgists can give a firm 
texture to the observations of contemporary research. 
Where the present study differs from the earlier ones is 
in its more sophisticated frame of reference, both conceptual 
and theoretical, and in the integrated portrayal of Santal 
culture that results. 

( viii ) 

Another way in which this work makes a significant 
contribution is in its use of the ethnohistorical method. 
Culture-contact is essentially a dynamic phenomenon, 
studied by balancing acceptance of the new against retention 
of the old, through the employment of the mechanisms of 
reinterpretation and syncretism. To undertake the study 
of this complex interplay, it is essential that historic know¬ 
ledge, of any type and from all sources, be used as effectively 
as possible. How, we may ask, can we study the dynamics 
of change under contact unless we know the patterns that 
preceded those that have developed and are observable 
at the present time. Has the current contact been preceded 
by others, so that traditions of adaptation are well developed 
among a people, or are we observing the shock of an ex¬ 
perience new to them ? These, and many more questions 
can only be studied by that welding of historic evidence 
and observed ethnographic data which is the essence of the 
ethnohistorical approach. In the use of Santal versions 
of the revolt of 1855, for example, or of the songs sung 
by the rebels at that time, it becomes apparent how histori¬ 
cal data illuminate present-day attitudes and cultural 

Implicit in this work lies the question of the applica¬ 
bility of the results of scientific anthropological research 
to the solution of practical problems. It should be clear 
that research such as that of Dr. Datta-Majumder has 
far-reaching implications for those everywhere who, in 
any administrative, educational or other capacity, must 
deal with situations where present or recent acculturation 
is involved. In a country such as India, as in others, 
such as the United States, where adjustment must be 
achieved between peoples of differing traditional norms of 
behaviour and systems of value, anthropological assessment 
of the factors entering into the situation can be of consider¬ 
able aid. Yet Dr. Datta-Majumder’s study, while it gives a 
basis for policy does not prescribe what that policy 
should be. In this, he is following a well-trodden path 

of science, one that is clearly established in the exact and 
natural disciplines, and toward which social scientists are 
gradually working, despite the pressures on students of 
man to mingle the ends of pure and applied science by 
attempting to achieve both at the same time. 

This book is to be commended, therefore, both for 
its contribution to the scientific study of culture, and for 
pointing the way in which anthropological science can lay 
an assured basis for approaches to resolving the human 
problems incident on culture-contact. Given the ethno¬ 
logical complexities of the Indian scene, it is to be hoped, 
that this work will be widely read and its implications 
carefully studied. 

Melville J. Herskovits 

Department of Anthropology 
Northwestern University, U. S. A. 


Though the Santal constitute one of the largest aboriginal 
groups in India, there is no scientific monograph on Santal 
culture. However, a great deal of information about this 
people is scattered in various journals, official reports, and 
missionary accounts. Studies in Santal Medicine and Con - 
nected Folklore, written by P. 0. Bodding, a Scandinavian 
missionary, and published in three parts by the Asiatic Society 
of Bengal, form the most important source book today. 

It is hoped that the present monograph will partially 
satisfy a long-felt want. Though the bulk of the materials for 
this book had been collected from a group of four Santal villages 
near Santiniketan in the district of Birbhum (Bengal) in 1945, 
it also contains the results of observation over a number of 
years in the two districts of Santal Parganas (in Bihar) and 
Birbhum. The manuscript had been completed in 1947. 
A subsequent visit paid towards the end of 1948 to the four 
Santal villages in Birbhum, previously investigated in 1945, 
enabled the author to check up the main conclusions arrived 
at by this study. No revision was found necessary. 

But one significant development in Santal life had taken 
place in the meantime. A section of the Santal belonging to a 
few villages of Birbhum started, under the influence of some 
political workers of the neighbourhood of Bolpur, a new move¬ 
ment aimed at stopping the performance of their traditional 
dances at public fairs and festivals. The sponsors of this 
new movement thought that such dances in public places 
lowered the dignity of their women-folk and encouraged 
immorality. The Santal of the four villages studied in this 
book did not, however, support this movement. They, on the 
contrary, insisted on continuing the performance of their 
dances in the old-established annual fairs held at Kanlcali-tola 
(a village about five miles away) on the occasion of Siva-ratri , 
a Hindu festival. They argued that it was not these dances, 

( *i ) 

but the employment of Santal female labour ut the rice-mills 
of the district, that were really responsible for the growth of 

Acknowledgment is made to the many authors whose 
names appear in the bibliographic and footnote material. 
The writer is particularly indebted to Professor Melville J. 
Herskovits, Chairman of the Anthropology Department of 
Northwestern University, U.S.A., for giving his valuable 
time to the tedious business of reading through and commenting 
on his successive drafts. The writer should also like to express 
his gratitude to Prof. A. I. Hallowell of the University of 
Pennsylvania, Dr. W. R. Bascom and Dr. R. A. Waterman of 
Northwestern University, and Dr. W. N. Fenton (now Director 
of New York State Museum) for going through the manuscript 
and helping him with a number of valuable suggestions. 
Finally, thanks are due to Dr. P. N. Sen Gupta, Secretary, 
Publication Committee of the Department of Anthropology, for 
seeing the book through the press, to Mr. N. C. Choudhury of the 
Department of Anthropology, Government of India,'for taking 
the trouble of preparing an index to the volume, and to Mr. S. 
Bhattacharya of the same Department for preparing a detailed 
“Guide to Pronunciation” of native terms used in this book. 

Nabendu Datta-Majumbeb 



a , a 


The symbols used in this book are those employed by bhe 
International Phonetic Association. In a few cases, however, 
symbols from the ‘Roman Script 5 have been utilized, for they 
are widely used in India and abroad, and they represent the 
Indian sounds concerned fairly correctly. In doing so, the 
necessity of maintaining continuity with the past practice has 
also been taken into consideration. All the symbols employed 
in this book are explained below :— 

/. Vowels 

. the first element of the diphthongs in English 
house , time . In Sanskrit words this symbol 
has been used to denote the first vowel sound 
of the Sanskrit alphabet (sr). 

the ‘a 5 in English father , French blame ; 
Sanskrit sn . 

,. nasalized a, a, as in French blanc ; Bengali cad 
‘moon 5 . 

.. the sound of ‘a 5 in English call ; Bengalis. 

.. a neutral a ; cf. the short indistinct vowel sound 
which English V assumes in words such a& 
here , or the final V in German Ruhe. 

the sound of ‘i 5 in French si ; Hindi ?, 
Bengali £ . 

.. long i ; Hindi f, Bengali sr . 

.. nasalized i, l ; Bengali ¥*, W. 

., the sound of V in German Buck , Hindi 
Bengali S. 

.. long u ; the sound of ‘oo 5 in English soon 
pronounced without diphthongisation ; Hindi 
s, Bengali S. 

.. nasalized u, u ; Bengali iST, . 

... syllabic V ; Sanskrit sc. 





/v ~ 




~ on 

u , u 


* • • 


e, e 



0 , o: 


the sound of V in French bebe, German fehlen. 

... long e ; The original q sound of Sanskrit as 
in the word Veda. 

... nasalized e, e ; Bengali 4 *. 

... the ‘a 5 sound of Southern English man , ca£; 
Bengali ftceno ‘why’. 

... the vowel sound in French beau, German rot . 
... long o ; the original sound of Sanskrit sft. 

... nasalized o, d; as in.Bengali Ooi ( bhd ). 

//. Consonants 

ft ... the sound of ‘k’ in English baker ; Hindi 

kh ... aspirated ft ; Hindi ®, Bengali ^. 

<7 ... the sound of ‘g’ in English ; Hind! *T, 
Bengali ^ . 

gh ... aspirated ,9 ; Hindi Bengali *1. 

n ... the sound of ‘ng’ in English sing ; Hindi y, 
Bengali $ . The anusvdra of Sanskrit alpha¬ 
bet has also been transcribed by this letter. 

c ... unvoiced palatal consonant; Hindis, Bengali 
1> . The palatal sounds arc articulated by 
the front of the tongue against the hard 
palate above the teeth-ridge. 

ch ... aspirated c ; Hindi Bengali ^ . 

j ... voiced palatal consonant; Hindi Bengali w. 

jh ... aspirated j ; Hindi Bengali C 


• • ♦ 


palatal nasal ; The sound of ‘gn’ in French 
agneau , and Italian Bologna ; Hindi or, Bengali 
< 3 * . 

t ... retroflex unvoiced plosive; Hindi z, Bengali 
$ . 

In most Indian languages two varieties of t and d 
occur, viz. retroflex and dental. The retroflex 
sounds in Indian languages are made with the 
tip of the tongue curled and pressed against 
the hard palate. The dental sounds (see 
below) are made with the tip of the tongue 
on the teeth. 

th ... aspirated t ; Hindi 3 , Bengali i . 

d ... retroflex voiced plosive ; Hindi $, Bengali v5. 

dh ... aspirated d ; Hindi 3, Bengali F . 

n ... retroflex nasal ; Sanskrit, Hindi *T . In 
Bengali and Santali a sound belonging to the 
retroflex nasal group occurs only in the nasal 
retroflex conjuncts ( nt, nd y etc. ). 

t ... dental unvoiced plosive (see above ( f) ; Hindi 
a, Bengali ^5 ; cf. French and Italian *t\ 

th ... aspirated t ; Hindi Bengali ; cf. ‘th 5 in 
English thick. 

a ... dental voiced plosive ; Hindi sr, Bengali ? ; cf. 
‘th’ in English them. 

dh ... aspirated d ; Hindi «r, Bengali h . 

n ... dental nasal; Hindi , Bengali . 

p ... the sound of ‘p’ in English put ; Hindi 

( xv ) 

ph ... aspirated p ; Hindi vr , Bengali ^ 

b ... the sound of ‘b’ in English bed ; Hindi s T 
Bengali ^ 

6ft ... aspirated 6 ; Hindi , Bengali ^ . 

m ... the sound of ‘m 5 in English made ; Hindi *T, 
Bengah y . 

y ... the sound of ‘y’ in English yes ; Hindi sr. 

r ... the sound of Y in English row; Hindi x> 
Bengali 3 . 

r ... flapped V, also called ‘retroflex r’ ; Hindi f, 
Bengali ^ . 

I ... the sound of T in English bug ; Hindi s, 
Bengali . 

v ... voiced bilabial fricative ; Hindi s . 
w ... bilabial semi-vowel, as the ‘w’ in English wet. 

$ ... palatal sibilant; cf. ‘sh’ in English share, ‘ch* 

in French chembre , ‘sch’ in German Schule ; 
Sanskrit 5 T, Bengali *f . 

s or sh ... retroflex sibilant; Sanskrit, Hindi *. 

5 ... dental sibilant, the ‘s’ in English see ; Hindi 


Ji ... the sound of ‘h’ in English perhaps ; Hindi 
^ , Bengali s . 

’ ... appearing after a consonant it denotes a 
checked or unexploded consonant; cf. the 
unreleased ‘p’ in English up. 

(rvi ) 


About the seventh century B. C., Kapila, founder of the Sankhya 
system of Indian philosophy, emphasized the fluidity of the universe, 
and viewed it as “the product of the interaction between the infinite 
number of spirits and the ever-active prakrti , or the potentiality of 
nature ”. According to this philosophy, every phenomenon in the 
universe “ is characterized by activity, change or motion (parispanda). 
All things undergo infinitesimal changes of growth and decay. In the 
smallest instant of time ( ksana ) the whole universe undergoes a change.” 1 

Toward the end of the sixth century B. C., the Greek philosopher, 
Heraclitus, also conceived of the world as in a state of continuous flux. 
According to his philosophy, “ Nowhere is there anything that abides: 
the world is a vast sea of never-ending motion.” 2 To emphasize this 
fluidity of the universe he said : “ The sun is new every day.” 3 Again, 
“ Into the same river you could not step twice, for other (and still other) 
waters are flowing.” 4 

Gautama Buddha and his followers in India, between the sixth 
century and about the first century B. C., likewise conceived of the 
universe as fluid and changeable. The dynamism of Buddha’s 
world-view was remarkably modern. 

He reduces substances, souls, monads, things to forces, move¬ 
ments, sequences and processes, and adopts a dynamic conception 
of reality. Life is nothing but a series of manifestations of becomings 
and extinctions. It is a stream of becoming. The world of sense and 
science is from moment to moment. It is a recurring rotation of 
birth and death. Whatever be the duration of any state of being, 
as brief as a flash of lightning or as long as a millenium, yet all is 
becoming. All things change. 6 

It was many centuries before this dynamic conception of the universe 
was systematically explored. In India, after about the first century B. 0., 
philosophers were busy elaborating the old doctrines of spiritual evolu¬ 
tion through karma (action) and the transmigration of souls. In Europe, 

1 S. Radhakrishnan— Indian Philosophy , II, p. 277. 

2 James Adam— The Religious Teachers of Greece , p. 231. 

3 The Fragments of the Work of Heraclitus of Ephesus on Nature , translated by 

G.T.W. Patrick, p. 92. 

* Op. cit , p. 94. 

8 Radhakrishnan—ibid., 1, 367*8. 

10 ASI/54 




Plato and Aristotle could not conceive of a dynamic society, while in 
later times European thought fell into the grip of the rigid theological 
doctrine of Biblical creation. 

The nineteenth century may be regarded as a turning point in the 
ideological history of mankind. The fact of biological evolution was 
demonstrated by Charles Darwin. 1 The powerful advocacy of evolution 
by T. H. Huxley in England, and Ernst Haeckel in Germany struck 
hard at the centuries-old ideas about specific creation. 

Herbert Spencer, 2 E. B. Tylor, 3 and Lewis H. Morgan 4 were outstand¬ 
ing among many advocates of social and cultural evolution. They were 
fully conscious of the fact that culture varies not only in space but also 
in time. But instead of analysing the processes involved in cultural fl ux 
and change, they were more interested in discovering the stages through 
which they had evolved, and tracing cultural phenomena to presumed 
origins. By comparing the contemporary variations of culture, and 
arranging them in a line of assumed evolutionary sequence, they were 
able to formulate the unilinear schemes of socio-cultural evolution 
associated with their names. Existing non-literate peoples were regarded 
as our contemporary ancestors, whose ways of life were held to represent 
different stages of socio-cultural evolution. 

The principal merit of Spencer, Tylor, Morgan and other nineteenth 
century classical evolutionists lies in the fact that they realised the 
principle of cultural fluidity and changeability, that culture has a depth in 
time, undergoes a process of change, and that no trait or institution can 
be said to be permanently fixed. But their methodology has been shown 
to have been inadequate, and their interests centered round speculative 
stages of evolution instead of the dynamic processes of change. 

The twentieth century has been marked by a number of reactions 
to the Classical Evolutionary School of anthropology. These reactions 
have given rise to four principal schools of thought, namely, the German- 
Austrian School of Diffusion, the British School of Diffusion, the American 
Historical School, and the Functionalist School. Batzel, the creator of 
Anthropo-Geography, and an advocate of the idea that similar geographi¬ 
cal environment evokes similar cultural responses, may be said to be the 
spiritual fountain-head of the German-Austrian School of Diffusion, and, 

1 Origin of Species. 

3 Principles of Sociology. 

8 Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philbsophy, Re¬ 
ligion, Language, Art and Custom. 

4 Ancient Society. 



less directly, to have influenced the American Historical School, though 
iis influence has worked in different directions as will be seen later. 

The German-Austrian School of Diffusion, as developed by Fritz 
Graebner 1 and Pater W. Schmidt, 2 have postulated some seven or eight 
original Kvlturkreise which have diffused all over the planet, interpene¬ 
trating and overlapping in varying proportions. According to this school, 
existing cultural similarities in distant parts of the globe can be explained 
by the dissemination of cultural traits and complexes of the original 
KulturJcreise. The hypothesis of independent origins and parallel 
development, emphasized by the classical evolutionists, is rejected by the 
followers of this school. 

The British School of Diffusion, developed by G. Elliot Smith 3 and 
IV. J. Perry, 4 maintain that all the essential traits of civilization, such 
as agriculture, metallurgy, writing, etc., have been derived from one 
center, Egypt, around 3,000 B. C., and diffused all over the world in 
various degrees of degeneration. The search for pearls and gold is 
supposed to have carried the Egyptian civilization everywhere. 

Both these schools believed there had been historical contact between 
widely separated areas of the world, assuming an extreme conservatism 
of cultural traits in tbeir spatial as well as temporal diffusion. The 
comparative method employed by them emphasizes formal similarities in 
cultural traits, and does not take into account their meaning and way 
of integration in the cultural context. Finally, the principles of indepen¬ 
dent origin and convergence, the validity of which is now accepted by 
most students of culture, have been completely ignored by them. 

The American group, led by Franz Boas, 5 A. L. Kroeber, 6 R. H. 
Lowie, 7 E. Sapir, 8 and which numbered among its members L. Spier, 9 
A. A. Goldenweiser, 10 Clark Wissler 11 and others, have rejected the study 
of world-wide historical reconstructions in favour of studying the diffusion 
of culture within limited, contiguous areas. Cultural similarities in 

1 Methods der Ethnologie. 

2 Volker and Kulturen. 

3 The Migrations of Early Culture. In the Beginning ; the Origin of Civilization. 

4 The Children of the Sun. 

8 See his papers in Bace, Language and Culture. 

6 California Culture Provinces. 

~ Culture and Ethnology. 

s Time Perspective in Aboriginal American Culture ; A Study in Method. 

® “ The Sun Dance of the Plains Indians, Its Development and Diffusion, ” An¬ 
thropological Papers, American Museum of Natural History, XVI. 

10 Anthropology : An Introduction to Primitive Culture , chs. XXVIII and XXIX 
(The Spread of Culture). 

u The American Indian ; an introduction to the anthropology of the New World. 




adjoining regions are thought more likely to be due to diffusion than to 
independent origin. When the continuity of geographical distribution 
is broken, this school insisted on closer analysis of cultural forms and 
archaeological research, before venturing any opinion about historical 

The American historical group shares with the classical evolutionary 
and the two diffusionist schools the belief that cultural phenomena change 
in time; but, unlike them, it has applied a strictly empirical method in 
studying the processes of culture change as evidenced by the distribution 
of cultural traits and complexes within a restricted geographical area. 
The superiority of this new historical method over the old ones lies in its 
inductive character. The point has been emphasized by Boas in the 
following words, “ This method is much safer than the comparative 
method, as it is practiced, because instead of a hypothesis on the mode 
of development actual history forms the basis of our deductions. 5,1 

In contrast to the previous schools which concerned themselves with 
historical reconstructions and diffusion of cultural traits, either on a 
world-wide scale, or within limited areas, Bronislaw Malinowski, 2 founder 
of the so-called “ functionalist ” school, swung to the other extreme, 
and completely ignored all historical studies, directing his efforts toward 
an analysis of the function of, and interrelationship between, different 
cultural elements within a single culture. According to him, culture is a. 
harmoniously functioning integrated whole. The chief drawback of this 
position lies in its conception of culture as a closed circle with interdepen¬ 
dent and well-integrated phenomena, isolated from its temporal context. 
These views were, however, modified by Malinowski as a result of his- 
later interest in African culture, which were undergoing rapid transfor¬ 
mation due to the impact of European cultures. He writes in a posthu¬ 
mously published book, as follows: 

The treatment of the complex situations of change as one “ well 
integrated whole,” the “ one-entry ” approach, as we might call 
it, ignores the whole dynamism of the process. It takes no account of 
the main fact in culture change, that is, that European residents, 
the missionaries and the administrators, the settlers and the en¬ 
trepreneurs, are indeed the main agents of change. 3 

In spite of the deficiency arising out of their ahistorical, if not anti- 
historical position, the functionalists have rendered a substantial service 

1 Bons—“ The Limitations of the Comparative Method of Anthropology Race , 

Language and Culture, p. 279. 

2 Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Coral Gardens and Their Magic. 

9 Malinowski —The Dynamics of Culture, p. 15. 



to anthropological Science by correcting the previous tendency of regard¬ 
ing cultural traits and complexes as isolated units. The functioning and 
interdependence of cultural phenomena is a solid fact which has to be 
constantly borne in mind, and studied, not as a thing-in-itself, but in 
its proper relation to the temporal as well as spatial context. It should 
be noted here that the functional interrelationship of cultural elements 
was emphasized also by Boas, the leader of the American Historical 
School, who expressly stated : 

The interdependence of cultural phenomena must be one of the 
objects of anthropological inquiry.... Here we are compelled to con¬ 
sider culture as a whole, in all its manifestations.... Inventions, 
economic life, social structure, art, religion, morals are all interre¬ 
lated . 1 

— 2 — 

The second quarter of the twentieth century is marked by striking 
refinements and innovations in the anthropological approach to the 
study of culture, based on a combination of the historical and functional 
methods, which has resulted in a renewed emphasis on a field of anthro¬ 
pology known as Cultural Dynamics in general, and Acculturation in 
particular. This emphasis recognises anew in fresh form the principle 
of universal fluidity and changeability, enunciated by Kapila, Buddha 
and Heraclitus in the seventh and sixth centuries B. C., which has already 
been accepted by the natural sciences. 

The reasons for the recent development of interest in such studies 
are both historical and psychological. The first historical root lies 
in the situation in which anthropology found itself in the first quarter 
of the twentieth century. The rejection of classical evolutionary views, 
followed by two extreme reactions in the form of world-wide diflusionism 
and functionalism, brought anthropology to an impasse. There was a 
feeling of futility and hopelessness in those who were more interested in 
understanding the nature and dynamic processes of culture. The rise 
of the American Historical School emphasizing distribution studies within 
limited areas, in order to understand both historical and functional 
processes, showed a way out of the difficulty. The point of view expressed 
by Boas in the statement 2 ,—“ For an intelligent understanding of his¬ 
torical processes a knowledge of living processes is as necessary as the 
knowledge of life processes for the understanding of the evolution of life 

i Boas—“The Aims of Anthropological Research ”, Address of the President of the 
American Association for the Advancemen of Science, Atlantic City, December 
1922. Quoted from Race, Language and Culture, pp. 254* *5. 

* ibid., p. 255. 



forms.” is an index towards the growth of new interests which finally 
culminated in Cultural Dynamics and Acculturation. 

The second historical reason lies in the completion of European 
penetration of the far corners of the globe. The impact of this factor 
on primitive cultures in the case of many peoples set in motion a rapid 
process of change in nonliterate societies that constituted a challenge 
to the scientific student of culture. The concept of uncontaminated, 
harmoniously functioning cultural wholes became more and more meaning¬ 
less, and anthropologists came to direct their attention to changing 
cultures under contact situations, instead of hunting for peoples with 
undisturbed ways of life. 

The third, and more positive, factor leading to the development of 
interests in studies of cultural dynamics is a growing anthropological 
concern with the psychology of culture, resulting from the shift in em¬ 
phasis from the study of formal aspects of culture to the analysis of cul¬ 
tural change. The understanding of the reaction of individuals to their 
ways of life was realized as being of the greatest scientific importance. 1 * * * 
The development of concern with problems of dynamics was to be seen 
most clearly in the stress laid, after 1925, on acculturation studies. 
This resulted in the establishment, in 1935, of a ‘ Sub-Committee on 
Acculturation, 5 consisting of R. Redfield, R. Linton, and M. J. Her- 
skovits, by the Social Science Research Council of the U.S.A. This 
sub-committee by defining the concept of acculturation and indicating 
the problems and methods of study, focussed attention to this newly- 
developing subject, and thereby caused its further development. 

Acculturation, as defined bv this committee, “ comprehends those 
phenomena which result when groups of individuals having different 
cultures come into continuous first hand contact, with subsequent changes 
in the original culture patterns of either or both groups.” For further 
clarification of this concept, a note has been appended saying: 

Under this definition acculturation is to be distinguished from 
culture change , of which it is but one aspect, and assimilation, which 

1 The growth of a psychological orientation in anthropologists may be noted in the 
following articles and monographs, among many others: 

Boas—“ Psychological Problems in Anthropology.” 

R. H. Lowie—“ Psychology and Sociology.” 

P. Radin— The Autobiography of an Winnebago Indian. 

E. Sapir—“ The Life of a Nootka Indian.” 

E. C. Parsons— American Indian Life. 

M. M. Willey, and M. J. Herskovits—“ Psychology and Culture.” 

A. I. Hallowell—“ Some Empirical Aspects of Northern Saulteaux Religion.” 



is at times a phase of acculturation. It is also to be differentiated 
from diffusion , which, while occurring in all instances of acculturation 
is not only a phenomenon which frequently takes place without the 
occurrence of the types of contact between peoples specified in the 
definition above, but also constitutes only one aspect of the process 
of acculturation. 1 

This definition of acculturation was soon found to require revision in 
the light of fresh materials. It was maintained that the qualifying clauses 
“ continuous first hand contact” and “ groups of individuals” should 
be modified to cover those acculturation situations where the contact is 
neither continuous nor between groups. Herskovits has drawn atten¬ 
tion to the situation in the island of Tikopia, where aboriginal patterns 
are being invaded by European culture elements as a result of “the visit 
of the mission boat once or twice a year, arid the work of a single 
missionary (a native of another island and not himself a European).” 2 
Linton speaks of the difficulty in exactly delimiting the frame of reference 
established by the phrase “ continuous first hand contact ”, He says : 

The observed cases of contact between various groups show all 
degrees />f closeness and continuity. They form a series within 
which there are no obvious lines of demarcation and the limits of 
acculturation on this basis must be left vague. 3 

Greenberg has pointed out the case of the amalgamation of Mohamme¬ 
dan and aboriginal belief among the Hausa, where the acculturative 
agents are Koranic texts and native learned men, known as Malams. 4 
In view of the difficulties presented by these new materials, Herskovits 
has suggested that “ the definition be rephrased so as to emphasize the 
continuous nature of the cultural impulses from tbe donor to the receiving 
group, whether this be at first hand or through literary channels.” 5 

Acculturation, it must be stressed, is but one element in the study 
of culture-change, or Cultural Dynamics, which includes changes of all 
kinds, whatever reason they may be due to. Broadly speaking, there 
are two classes of forces or stimuli, external and internal, which bring 
about a series of readjustments leading to cultural change. The external 
stimuli are supplied by the process of culture borrowing or diffusion. The 

1 R. Redfield, R. Linton, M. J. Herskovits—“ A Memorandum for the Study of 


2 M. J. Herskovits— Acculturation, p. 12. 

* R. Linton— Acculturation in Seven American Indian Tribes , p. 465. 

* J. H. Greenberg—“ Some Aspects of Negro-Mobammedan Culture Contact among 

the Hausa.” 

s M. J. Herskovits—** Some Comments on the Study of Culture Contact, ” p. 7. 



internal stimuli are provided by innovations from within a culture, that 
is, by discoveries and inventions. 

Culture borrowing or diffusion is of major importance in cultural 
change. In spite of the “ psychic unity of mankind,” conceived by the 
evolutionists, inventions and discoveries take place in a given culture 
but rarely. Culture borrowing is a much easier task, and goes on almost 
constantly all over the world through peaceful or hostile contacts. The 
Pan-Egyptian theory of the British diffusionists or the Kulturkreise 
of the German-Austrian Culture-Historical School may be rejected, but 
the role of diffusion as a significant factor in cultural change cannot be 
doubted. Peaceful penetrations and military conquests have, through¬ 
out history, made cultural readjustments inevitable. 

The main distinction between studies of diffusion and acculturation 
studies, actually, lies in the methods employed in each. The former 
depend on the assumption of historical cont act between different peoples 
from cultural similarities, while the latter work on the basis of real history 
derived from historical (i.e., source) materials as well as contact situations 
where culture borrowing is in process. In other words, observed pheno¬ 
mena, as against assumed ones, form the subject matter of acculturation. 

The scientific contribution of acculturation studies does not lie in 
their concern with the fact of culture borrowing when two social groups 
come into contact, but with finding the conditions and 'processes under 
which culture borrowing leading to cultural readjustment takes place. 
The special significance of acculturation studies may be said to be three¬ 
fold : 

(a) Acculturation facilitates the comprehension of the nature and 
processes of culture. As the fundamental mechanisms involved in the 
origin and growth of culture usually lie dormant in relatively stable cul¬ 
tures, it is very difficult to understand these mechanisms by studying 
stable cultures alone. But when a culture is undergoing transformation 
due to the impact of an alien culture, the usually hidden, fundamental 
mechanisms come to the surface and operate visibly. In such a situation, 
it becomes easier to grasp these mechanisms. 

(b) Acculturation studies, by illumining contemporary processes and 
their effects, would throw light on events of past epochs. For, the same 
mechanisms must be assumed to have been in operation in contact situa¬ 
tions of antiquity. In this respect, there is an analogy between the 
method of geology and that of acculturation. In pointing out this 
analogy Hallowell says: 



One is reminded here of the doctrine of uniformitarianism 
enunciated by Lyell when be wrote his Principles of Geology over 
a century ago. Whereas earlier geologists had sometimes invoked 
specific explanations (for example, catastrophes) for certain past 
events, Lyell emphasized the fact that the same processes must be 
assumed to be operating in the past as at present. By carefully 
observing the effects of contemporary processes we will be in a better 
position, ne said, to understand tbe events of past epochs. This 
principle has become well established in tbe natural sciences and is 
just as applicable in tbe scientific study of man. 1 

(c) Acculturation studies have made it possible to effect a great 
methodological advance in anthropology by introducing the element of 
historic control, approximating a laboratory situation. This metho¬ 
dology, which is a combination of ethnographical and historical methods, 
has been termed “ ethno-historical method” by Herskovits, and well 
illustrated in his study of the Negro in the New World. 2 In his Afro- 
American studies Herskovits has drawn on both historical documents and 
ethnographic data to determine the African cultural background or 
baseline from which New World Negroes came. It is from this baseline 
that he has tried to measure the changes taking place in Negro life in the 
New World as a result of their contact with European cultures. Schapera 
also has followed essentially the same method in his culture contact studies 
in Africa, though he has not called it ethnohistory. 3 

The specific problems which anthropologists, interested in cultural 
dynamics, are endeavouring to solve may be enumerated as follows : 

(a) What happens when two social groups with different cultures 

come into contact ? 

(b) What determines the acceptance or rejection of cultural traits 

in the process of culture borrowing ? 

(c) What are the mechanisms involved in the acceptance of new 

elements ? 

(d) Are new elements accepted entirely or partially ? 

(e) How are new elements integrated into the receiving culture ? 

(/) Do new elements undergo any change in form or meaning or 

both in the process of integration ? 

(g) Are some aspects of culture more liable to change than others ? 

(h) Is it possible to formulate any general laws of cultural change ? 

* A. I. Hallowell-—“ Sociopsychological Aspects of Acculturation, ” p. 172. 

2 M. J. Herskovits— My h of the Negro Past. 

3 I/Schapera—“Field Methods in the Study of Modern Culture Contact,” p. 320. 



A satisfactory answer to these questions will have to wait till acculturation 
studies are made in different parts of the world to a much greater extent 
than have been made at present. Only the initial steps have been taken 
in this direction. 

Certain theoretical concepts, already developed by students of accul¬ 
turation, and having relevance for the present paper, may be mentioned 

(1) Culture borrowing is selective .—Different aspects of culture 

are differently affected in accordance with the particular 
historical situation under which contact occurs. As a 
rule, in conditions of voluntary borrowing, the focal area of 
culture, that is, those aspects which interest the people 
most and are constantly in their consciousness, will exhibit 
more changes than the areas outside the “ cultural focus. ” 
The term “ cultural focus ” has been defined by Hersko- 
vits as “ that phenomenon which gives a culture its parti¬ 
cular emphasis; which permits the outsider to sense its 
special distinguishing flavour and to characterize its 
essential orientation in a few phrases.” 1 But in those 
situations where force is applied to one of the parties in 
contact, the focal area seems to offer the greatest resistance 
to change, and consequently retentions of original customs t 
will be strongest here. The point has been demonstrated 
by Herskovits in the case of New World Negroes who, 
though they have lost the economic and political aspects 
of their African cultural heritage, have retained a great 
deal of their religion (which is the cultural focus of the 
African Negroes) in spite of heavy pressure on the part of 

(2) Syncretism and reinterpretation are two of the important 

mechanisms through which the retention of original customs 
as well as the acceptance of new elements are facilitated. 
The process of syncretism has been defined as “ the tendency 
to identify those elements in the new culture with similar 
elements in the old one, enabling the persons experiencing 
the contact to move from one to the other, and back again, 
with psychological ease. ” 2 

1 M. J. Herskovits—“Problem, Method and Theory in Afro-American Studies.’* 

p. 4. 

2 ibid., p. J9. 



The identification of African deities with saints of the church 
in Catholic countries of the New World, and that of the 
Hausa iskoki with the Mohammedan jinn are instances 
of syncretism. As will be shown, the same tendency 
is observed among the Santal when they indiscriminately 
apply the Hindu word Thakur and the Munda word Sin 
Bonga to their High God Cando ; or when Cando is syn- 
cretized with the Hindu deity Rama under the name 
Ram Cando ; and when they accept KaU, Dharitri , and 
other Hindu deities in their pantheon of bongas or spirits. 

In a situation where pressure is applied to one of the parties in 
contact, and the new element demanding acceptance is too 
divergent to allow of identification and syncretism with 
the old ones, the mechanism of retention through reinter¬ 
pretation comes into play. This mechanism consists in 
reinterpreting the meaning of the pre-existing element 
in such a way as to suit the form of the new element that 
has to be accepted. When the American Negroes had to 
accept monogamy, they reinterpreted their traditional 
polygyny as successive, rather than simultaneous, plural 
matings, thereby accepting the new and retaining the old 
custom at the same time. In the case of the Christian 
Santal, an attempt has been made to reinterpret the 
traditional Supreme Being, Cando , in such a way as to 
include the three aspects of the Holy Trinity. Again, 
Ram Cando of the Hinduized Santal has been reinter¬ 
preted by one native leader to cover the reinterpreted 
Cando of the Christian Santal, thereby providing an 
instance of double reinterpretation. 

(3) Though continuous first hand contact between two cultures 
creates a condition favourable for acculturation, and 
generally leads to reciprocal borrowing of cultural elements, 
yet of itself it is not a sufficient cause for any radical 
readjustment in the way of life of either group in contact. 
This is apparent when in studying the Santal we consider 
the following facts : (cc) Though the Santal have long 
been dependent on Hindu and Mohammedan weavers for 
the supply of their cotton clothes, they have not cared to 
learn the art of weaving, (b) Though every Santal village 



has a resident Hindu blacksmith, for making and repairing 
their ploughshares, the Santal have not cared to learn this 
art in spite of generations of socio-economic interaction 
with Hindu blacksmiths. 

This principle is also exemplified by the contact situation pre¬ 
vailing among the four Nilgiri tribes, Toda, Badaga, Kota, 
and Kurumba. These tribes have been living in “eco¬ 
nomic and social symbiosis ” without attempting to learn 
each other’s special occupation. 1 

(4) Hallowell has put forward the following two concepts: 
(a) Learning exercises a great influence in acculturative as 
in all other situations involving the transmission of culture. 
The existence of incentives to learning promotes accul¬ 
turation, while barriers retard it. (b) Acculturation under 
conditions of voluntary imitative learning is not disruptive. 2 
It will be seen in due course that the Santal of Btrbhum, 
living in villages near the educational institutes of Santi- 
niketan and Sriniketan, are being encouraged to learn 
weaving, carpentry, and cultivation of new crops. They 
are learning these and other new elements without any 
radical change or disruption in their mode of life. 

— 3 — 

In addition to the development of studies of change in process in the 
United States, similar studies were being made in Africa by British 
anthropologists like I. Schapera, A. I. Richards, L. P. Mair and others 
under the name “ culture contact. ” R. Piddington and H. Ian Hogbin 
may be said to be the pioneers in studies of cultural change in Oceania. 
The main difference between American students of acculturation and 
British students of culture contact lies in their predominant interest. 
While the primary concern of the former has been a theoretical analysis 
of the processes of culture change, that of the latter has been to find 
solutions to practical problems raised by adjustments necessitated 
by the contact of African and European cultures. 

In India, acculturation studies are few in number. The first mono¬ 
graph written from the point of view of culture change is A Tribe in 
Transition , by D. N. Majumdar. This book, published in 1937, describes 

1 D. G. Mandelbaum—“Culture Change among the Nilgiri Tribes”. 

2 A. I. Hallowell—“Sociopsychological Aspects of Acculturation,” pp. 182, J.S6-7. 



the changes taking place in the life of the Ho, a Munda-speaking tribe of 
Chota Nagpur plateau, as a result of their contact with the Hindus, 
Government officers, Christian missionaries, mines, factories and plan¬ 
tations. It has been shown that the material aspect of Ho culture has 
undergone a great change. For example, “ the leafy booths and wicker 
walls ” (p. 179) have been replaced by substantial houses ; “ earthen 
vessels, wooden ladles and leaf plates ” (p. 179) have given place to- 
metallic ones ; “ artistic and gaudily bordered saris ” (p. 179) ‘worn by 
Hindu women’ have become popular with Ho women, and European 
shorts and shirts are coming into use. 

The writer has clearly indicated the differentiation of the Ho into 
two economic and social classes, an upper class consisting of village 
headmen and well-to-do cultivators, and a lower class of poor peasants 
and other kinds of menial workers. The upper class, which form a 
minority group, imitate the customs of their higher-caste Hindu neigh¬ 
bours, and thereby enjoy a greater social prestige. They constitute an 
intermediate group between the two extremes, the higher-caste Hindus 
on the one hand and the bulk of the poor Ho on the other. 

The number of the Ho taking work in mines, factories and planta¬ 
tions has been increasing. Unsatisfactory conditions of work in those 
places have been causing a reduction of vitality among the Ho. The in¬ 
cidence of malaria and venereal disease are on the increase. The latter 
disease is being introduced into Ho society by the association of their 
women with alien men, specially in mine areas. 

In religion, Hinduism has exercised a greater influence upon the 
Ho than Christianity. The upper class Ho manifest a clear tendency 
towards Hinduization and against Christianity. In spite of the changes 
mentioned above, the Ho “ still maintain their tribal organization, the 
traditional beliefs are still regarded as sacred, though there is less rigid 
adherence to tribal customs and rites due to cultural contact ” (p. 128). 1 

In 1938 M. B. Emeneau, an American scholar, published an article 
entitled “Toda Culture Thirty-five Years After: An acculturation 
Study. ” 2 Here the results of contact between the Toda of the Nilgiri 
Hills on the one hand, and the English, Indian officials, trades-people 
and menial workers on the other, since 1901-2 when W. H. R. Rivers 
studied the tribe, have been analysed. It has been shown that the land 
basis of Toda economic life, that is, their pasturage for the buffalo herds* 

1 D. N. Majumdar —A Tribe in Transition . 

2 See Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriontai Research Institute, NIX, pt. II (1938), 

pp. 101-21. 



has been adversely affected by the influx of European and Indian immi 
grants. Curtailment of the pasturage areas has been partially checked by 
making the alienation of land by the Toda subject to the consent of the 
Government. Indebtedness to Cetti merchants in the bazaars has grown. 
The Toda Amelioration Scheme, initiated by the Government and 
calculated to make agriculturalists out of the pastoral Toda in order to 
improve their economic condition, has not been successful; because their 
traditional pastoral economy is still intact, and they do not like the 
continuous back-breaking labour involved in agriculture. 

In social organization and religion no change has taken place since 
Rivers' visit. The Toda practice of making vows to Hindu temples and 
a Mohammedan mosque at Nagore near Tanj ore, already noticed by 
Rivers, has been interpreted by Emeneau as an extension of the tradi¬ 
tional practice of making vows to the touno.r , i.e., gods of the dairy 
complex, and illustrates the hypothesis of cultural syncretism. 

The conclusion reached by the author is : 

Most change is seen in economic life in the way of gradual 
impoverishment through alienation of land and contracting debts 
in the bazaars, which has set in long before Rivers made his descrip¬ 
tion .... The introduction of contagious disease to the community 
by the immigrant inhabitants of the hills is easily the point where 
outside influences have made the greatest impact on the Todas. 1 
In 1941 D. G. Mandelbaum 2 discussed the inter-relationship of the four 
Nilgiri tribes,—the Toda, Kota, Badaga and Kurumba,—and the results 
of their contact with European and Hindu immigrants. It has been 
pointed out that the four tribes have been living in close inter-dependence 
for centuries with very little inter-tribal diffusion of culture. The reasons 
for this lack of inter-tribal acculturation are analyzed in terms X)f the 
difference in the economic base, the nature of social intercourse which 
is “ confined to a fixed number of narrowly defined activities ” (p. 20), 
and the prestige symbolism associated with different groups and jealously 

It has also been demonstrated how different tribes reacted differently 
to alien influence, thereby leading to varying degrees of acculturation 
in their ways of life. The Badaga, whose traditional culture is closest 
to that of the plains Hindus, have been deeply affected by renewed 
contact with Hinduism, and trying “ to align their ways with those of 
the caste structure ” (p. 21) by* * eliminating old traits as well as adopting 
new practices. 

1 M. B. Emeneau—ibid., pp. 120-1. 

* See “Culture Change among the Nilgiri Tribes.” 



Toda culture, closely knit and centered on the buffalo and sacred 
dairies, has successfully resisted acculturation, in spite of a much greater 
exposition to white influence than other groups. But the potentialities 
of Toda acculturation are illustrated by the case of a single sib which, 
moved by the Government to a new site away from the location of its 
sacred dairies, has “ lost its zest for buffalo care and has taken over 
certain non-buffalo traits ” (p. 23). The history of this single deviant 
sib has led the author to conclude that “ Every culture is especially 
vulnerable to profound change in certain of its spheres. One such 
strategic area in Toda life is the sphere of ritual ” (p. 23). A blow struck 
at this vital point is bound to lead to change. 

The Kota has shown a susceptibility to change which is greater than 
that of the Toda, but less than that of the Badaga. The impress of 
European influence on Kota culture has been greater than that of Hin¬ 
duism. The biography of an educated native has been analysed to in¬ 
dicate “ the role which personality may play in mutations of the social 
mass ” (p. 26). 

In 1943 a work entitled the Ckenchus : Jungle Folk of the Deccan 
by Christoph von Fiirer-Haimendorf, an Austrian anthropologist (now 
Professor of Anthropology in the School of Oriental and African 
Studies, University of London), was published. Part VIII of this book 
is named “Contacts and Acculturation”. Here the writer has attempted 
to reconstruct the oldest stratum of Chenchu culture by comparing ele¬ 
ments shared by the Chenchu with hunting and food-gathering tribes in 
widely separated areas such as the jungles of eastern Ceylon, forest-clad 
hills of Travancore, uplands of the Deccan, and south-east Asia. The 
position of the author may be best stated in his own words. He says : 

Let us try to visualize Chenchu culture as it is likely to have 
existed in earliest times. The basic features are those common to 
most races of primitive hunters and foodgatherers, and a knowledge 
of the cultures of other equally primitive tribes in Southern Asia, 
such as the Veddas, Andamanese, Semang and Philippine Negritoes 
can therefore help us to determine which elements in the material, 
social and spiritual sphere may belong to the nucleus of ancient 
Chenchu culture (p. 277). 

The comparative method employed by Eurer-Haimendorf is to be criti¬ 
cized in reconstructing “ the nucleus of ancient Chenchu culture,” since 
he compares the form of similar elements without any regard for either 
their meaning or the way in which they have been integrated in their 



cultural context. Moreover, there is an implied, but scarcely justified, 
assumption that cultural elements in primitive societies are extremely 
conservative and unchanging over a long period covering millenia. He 
also ignores the possibility of the operation of the principle of convergence, 
that is, of dissimilar conditions leading to similar results. 

Nonetheless, the author has clearly demonstrated the recent changes 
taking place in Chenchu life as a result of contact with Telugu-speaking 
Hindus of the plains. For purposes of analysis the Chenchu have been 
divided into two main groups, those who live in the jungles of the upper 
plateaus of the Deccan, and those who live in the lower plateaus and the 
plains near Hindu villages. The jungle Chenchu have adopted a number 
of traits of material culture like earthen pots, cotton clothes and grinding 
stones from the bazaars of the open country. Some time in the past they 
adopted Telugu language, the use of iron, and the worship of the Telugu 
god Bhagavantaru in addition to their own god Garelamaisama. But 
“ the manifold influences of Telugu civilization have failed as yet to 
bring about a fundamental change in the cultural atmosphere of the 
jungle Chenchus ” (p. 289). 

Village Chenchu are adopting the mode of life of Telugu peasants, 
though there is a difference in the degree of acculturation from village to 
village. House type, utensils, dress and ornaments of the Chenchu 
conform to those of the Hindus. They are taking to cultivation, and also 
working as agricultural labourers and coolies. The worship of Hindu 
deities is gaining in importance, while the original cult of Garelamaisama 
is on the decline. But “ in their social order and customs the Chenchus 
in close touch with Telugu castes have not yet undergone any radical 
changes and differ indeed only slightly from those who dwell in the 
jungle” (p. 304). 

Village Chenchu are gradually being divided into two economic 
groups : those who have their own fields and cattle, and those who are 
landless and without herds. The majority of the village Chenchu 
belong to the latter group, and suffer extreme poverty. Indebtedness 
to Hindu merchants and money-lenders has been growing. The economic 
difference between these two groups is leading to social difference, for the 
former group is more and more becoming unwilling to have marital rela 
tions with the latter ; and two endogamous groups are emerging. 

Village Chenchu as a whole are developing into a Hindu caste 
Unlike many low castes recruited from aboriginal tribes, village Chenchu 
are not regarded as untouchables. To explain this difference the author 



bas suggested the following factors: (a) “ their early association with 
hermits and priests of the outlying temples ” (p. 308); (6) the fact that 
they controlled the approaches to the sacred Siva temple at §ri Sailam, 
and worked as guides and porters to the pilgrims ; and (c) their avoid¬ 
ance of beef. 

As regards the Chenchu of Madras Presidency, the author describes 
the effects of Government measures in establishing Chenchu settlements 
under official supervision. Cattle-breeding and cultivation are being 
introduced in these settlements. Co-operative societies for the collection 
and disposal of minor forest produce are being set up. The Forest Depart¬ 
ment employs Chenchu labourers. But the incidence of crime, specially 
rape and murder, has been growing in these settlements. It has been 
suggested that this growth in the incidence of crime may be due to the 
fact that “ the process of gathering the Chenchus into large settlements 
has undermined their own social organization and no new system has 
yet been evolved to replace the old order” (p.318). 

It may be noted here that the processes of social stratification and 
increasing economic impoverishment of the majority due to the impact 
of alien forces, as observed by Majumdar and Fiirer-Haimendorf among 
the Ho and the Chenchu respectively, are typical of most aboriginal tribes 
in India. The Santal, as will be seen later, exhibit similar processes. 
The introduction of new diseases, specially venereal ones, as mentioned 
by Emeneau in his Toda acculturation study, is another feature which 
has been affecting the primitive tribes of India in close contact with the 
so-called “ civilized ” peoples. 

A. Aiyappan’s work, Iravas and Culture Change , published in 1944, 
may be said to be the second monograph written by an Indian anthro¬ 
pologist from the acculturation point of view. Here the author shows 
the changes taking place in the life of the Irava, an untouchable Hindu 
caste of the Malabar coast, as a result of the impact of modern conditions. 
The most important changes are the gradual breakdown of caste restric¬ 
tions, and the replacement of fraternal polyandry by monogamy. The 
forces of change, external as well as internal, and the increasing struggle 
within Irava community between those favouring change and the conser¬ 
vative elements are clearly indicated. But certain statements, made by 
Aiyappan, about the food situation in the past and the cause of present 
food scarcity among the Irava, are not tenable. For a detailed discussion 
of this point, which does not have a direct bearing on the present study, 
10ASI/54. 3 



reference may be made to a review of the book under consideration by the 
writer. 1 

In The Purums , An Old Kuki Tribe of Manipur , published in 1945, 
Tarak Chandra Das has shown how this people, originally a hunting, 
food-gathering and nomadic cultivating tribe, are gradually moving 
down, in small sections, to valley lands, and adopting plough cultivation. 
As a result of this change of occupation a number of innovations are taking 
place in Purum culture. To mention only two instances, the authority 
of the community over the individual is decreasing, while that of the 
father is increasing. And the law of.ultimogeniture, whereby the youngest 
son remained with the father to inherit whatever property he had 
after his death, is being replaced by new rules regulating the inheritance 
of valuable rice lands by all the sons. 

The present study is an attempt to investigate the forms and processes 
of cultural change among the Santal, a Mun<Ja-speaking aboriginal 
people inhabiting the forest-covered upland regions of the provinces of 
Bihar, Orissa and Bengal in India, as a result of their continuous contact 
with alien cultures represented by the Hindus, British Government 
and Christian missionaries. Only a section of the Santal, who form the 
second largest aboriginal group in the country, has been selected for 

Changes in Santal culture will be studied from two points of view, 
first, among the present-day Santal of the district of Santal Parganas in 
Bihar; secondly, among the present-day Santal of the four villages, 
situated between the two educational institutes of Sdntiniketan and 
iSriniketan founded by the late Rabindranath Tagore, in the adjoining 
district of Birbhum in Western Bengal. This will be followed by a 
comparative study of the results of acculturation in these two contiguous 

To comprehend the nature and significance of these changes, the 
establishment of a “ cultural base line ” is essential. This base line will 
be represented here by the pre-British Santal culture as found in the 
district of Santal Parganas in the latter half of the eighteenth and the 
first half of the nineteenth centuries, that is, in the earlier days of Santal 
contact with the British Government. The pre-British Santal culture 
is an integration between Santal and Hindu cultures, because contact 
with the Hindus lasted for millennia resulting in a great deal of accultur- 

1 A Review of Iravae and Culture Change, by Nabendu Datta-Majumder, published 
in the American Anthropologist, V. 49 (1947), pp. 294-6. 



ation long before 1757, when the British first seized the political control 
of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, the provinces in which Santal territory is 
located. This integrated Santal-Hindu culture must be taken as the 
base line of present Santal culture, since there is no way to discover the 
pre-Hindu Santal culture except in a very fragmentary manner. The 
pre-British Santal culture of the Santal Parganas will serve as the base 
line for estimating the acculturation of the Santal of Birbhum as well, 
for the ancestors of the present-day Santal of Birbhum migrated from 
the adjoining district of Santal Parganas. 

An idea of the spatial and temporal elements involved in the present 
study may be obtained from the following schematic diagram: 







l 20 i i 

' 4 





} 2° ; 

» 1 









3 1# 

In the above diagram, C represents total Santal territory. A represents 
the district of Santal Parganas, and B Birbhum. A 18 " 19 refers to the 
Santal of the 18th and 19th centuries, and B 19 to the Birbhum Santal 
of the 19th century. The arrow mark A-^B indicates the movement of 
the people. A 20 and B 20 stand for the 20th century Santal of the res¬ 
pective districts. Cultural variations observed among A 20 and B 20 as 
compared with A 18 ' 19 will be analysed in this paper. Differential accul¬ 
turation between A 20 and B 20 will also be noticed. 

For determining the cultural base line of this study use has been 
made of the ethnohistorical method. 1 All available relevant literature, 
consisting of reports by government officials, travellers, and Christian 
missionaries have been consulted. The observations of the writer 


1 See above, p. 9. 



who was able to study the Santal of Santal Parganas on two occasions 
have also been drawn upon. The materials for ascertaining the present 
Santal culture of Blrbhum were collected as a result of field investigations 
in August, 1945. Even before this field trip, the writer had been familiar 
with the Santal life of this area, since he had occasion to visit Santini- 
ketan and Srlniketan several times. In addition to the above, the writer 
spent about three months in 1933 at Sriniketan studying the rural recons¬ 
truction activities of that institute, and frequently visited the neigh¬ 
bouring Santal villages. For the conditions and processes under which 
changes have been taking place in Santal Parganas in recent times, the 
writer has drawn principally on his own investigations and observations, 
and partly on literature. 


History and Distribution of the Santal 

The hills and forests of the Deccan, Southern India, Chota Nagpur 
Plateau, and Assam have served as a refuge to the aboriginal tribes of 
India for millennia. These tribes commonly grouped together under the 
category of Pre-Dravidian or Proto-Australoid, were once the masters 
of the country. The Santal, one of the most numerous of the tribes, 
inhabit Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. In existing literature referring to 
them, they have been variously mentioned as Santal, Sonthal, Saotar, 
and Saotal. The last two names have been given by their Bihari and 
Bengali neighbours respectively. The first two names are their English 
counterparts. The word Santal has now become the standard form in 
English literature, and is employed in the census reports of India. A 
Santal calls himself hor (man), or mmjhi (literally, village headman). 

The physical characteristics of the Santal are as follows : Their skin- 
colour varies from dark to very dark brown. Hair is coarse, black and 
occasionally curly. The zygomatic arches are prominent. The root of 
the nose is depressed. The average nasal index is 88*8 with a range from 
74 to 110. The average cephalic index is 76-1 with a range from 69 to 88. 
The average stature is 161*4 cm with a range from 151*0 to 177-0. 1 

The traditional legends of the Santal tell a story of constant wander¬ 
ings. Different scholars have reached different conclusions about their 
original habitat from these legends. The following legend, told by Bagh 
Rai Parganait, an influential Santal headman of Hazaribagh, to E. T. 
Dalton, may be regarded as typical, and is summarized here. 

A wild goose, coming from the great ocean, alighted at Ahiri Pipri, 
and there laid two eggs, out of which were born a male and a female 
human being, who were the original ancestors of the Santal, and came to 
be known as Pilcu Haram and Pilcu Bu<Jhi. The ancestors migrated 
to Kara Duttie, greatly multiplied there, and were called Kharwar. 
After a number of wanderings through Khairagarh and Hurredga?hi, 
they eventually settled in Chai Champa in the district of Hazaribagh 
where they remained for several generations. 

In Chai Champa a man belonging to the Birhor, another Munda- 
speaking tribe, seduced a Santal girl, out of which union was born a boy 
who was named Madhu Sing and grew up to be a very powerful man. 

1 These indioes are based on anthropometric measurements of 100 Santal taken by 
Sir Herbeit Risley —The People of India, second edition, pp. 372-441. 



He demanded a wife from among the Santal who refused to give the son 
of a Birhor any of their girls in marriage. So Madhu Sing threatened 
to violate all Santal virgins unless he was given a wife. 

To save the honour of their maidens from this powerful tyrant, 
the Santal collected all their women, children, cattle and movable goods, 
and fled overnight to Chota Nagpur, the country of the Muruja. Maran 
Burn (literally, “ the great mountain ”), the God of the Muruja, helped 
their southward flight by putting his huge mass between them and 
their pursuers. Since that time the Santal have become votaries of 
Maran Burn. Wandering through Jhalda and Patkum, they settled 
down in the forests of Saot and prospered. 

Infatuated with the sight of dancing Santal maidens, the Raja (king) 
of Saot demanded a girl for himself. The Santal refused to comply with 
this demand, and, fearing the consequences, fled once more, this time to 
Sikhar to the north. It was from their long sojourn at Saot that the 
name Santal has been derived. 1 As the people multiplied, groups or 
Santa! moved west and established colonies at Sonabadi and Guttiari in 
the Hazaribagh district through which the river Damodor flows. 2 

There is a number of similar legends in different parts of Santal terri¬ 
tory which, though they do not agree in all the details, speak of frequent 
wanderings, and mention such places as Ahiri Pipri, Chai Champa, Saot 
and Sikhar. Saot is identified by many with Silda in the district of 
Midnapore in West Bengal, Ahiri Pipri with Pargana Ahuri in the district 
of Hazaribagh in S. Bihar, and Chai Champa and Sikhar also occur in 
Hazaribagh. Even to this day the above-mentioned places contain 
large colonies of the Santal. From such legends as these Dalton 3 con¬ 
cludes that the Santal were originally located in Eastern Bengal (ignoring 
Bagh Bai Parganait’s account of the tribal movement to the south and 
east), whereas Skrefsrud 4 derives them from the north-west. 

From the important role played by the deity Maran Bum (“the 
great mountain”) and the river Damodor in Santal culture, Hunter con¬ 
cludes that the original abode of the tribe must have been somewhere in 
the Himalayas, probably in the north-east. 5 

The hypotheses about the original habitat of the Santal are highly 
speculative. Many of the place names mentioned in the legends cannot 
be identified. Those that have been definitely identified are in the Chota 

1 An alternative hypothesis, put forward by S. K. Chatterji, derives the word 
Santal from the expression, Samanta-pala meaning ‘bordering people’. (The Origin and 
Development of the Bengali Language _ p. 502). 

2 E. T. Dalton— Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal, pp. 209-11. 

3 ibid. 

4 Risley—ibid. p. 442. 

6 W. E. Hunter— The Annals of Rural Bengal, third edition, I, 152-6. 



Nagpur plateau and the adjoining districts. Whether the Santal came to 
the Chota Nagpur plateau from the east, north-west, or north-east cannot, 
however, be conclusively proved on the basis of legends alone. Archaeo¬ 
logical research may throw more light on the problem of the original 
habitat of the Santal in future. All that can be reasonably deduced 
from the existing evidence is that in the past the Santal had a much 
wider distribution in the Gangetic valley and that, pressed by the east¬ 
ward expansion of the Hindus, they gradually fell back on the hills and 
forests of the Chota Nagpur plateau. What is certain is that about the 
middle of the eighteenth century, i.e., at the time of the beginning of 
British rule in India, Chota Nagpur was found to be the chief habitat of 
the Santal, as of many other allied Munda-speaking tribes. The districts 
of Hazaribagh, Palamau and Sihbhum were then Santal strongholds. 

Toward the end of the eighteenth century, as the jungles were being 
cleared up, and the pressure of population on the infertile uplands of 
C'hota Nagpur was being felt, there was again a movement of the Santal. 
This time they moved toward the north-east, attracted by the virgin 
forests in and around the Rajmahal Hills, a range which is the north¬ 
eastern extension of the Chota Nagpur plateau, abutting on the river 
Ganga 1 where it leaves the province of Bihar, enters Bengal, and pursues 
a south-easterly course. This latest migration was strengthened by the 
introduction in 1790 of the Permanent Zamindari Settlement by which 
the East India Company created a new class of zamindars or landlords, and 
permanently fixed the amount of annual land revenue to be paid to it by 
the latter. This induced the zamindars to hire labour to clear up forests 
in order to bring more and more land under cultivation. The Santal 
were increasingly used for this purpose. 

The higher altitudes of the Rajmahal Hills have been inhabited for 
untold generations by another tribe called Paharia. Since the Pahapa 
were accustomed to making raids on the people of the surrounding plains, 
military expeditions were sent against them by the British Government. 
But the impenetrable nature of the forests on the hills and the lack of 
roads made it difficult to subdue them. However, by following a double 
policy of military interference and conciliation,—specially by employing 
a few influential tribal people in every village on a regular payment 
basis for maintaining peace,—they were finally brought under control. 2 

1 ‘Ganga’ is the Indian name for the river which is known to the English-speaking 
world as the Ganges. In this paper the word ‘Ganga’ would be used instead of the 
Ganges. This is in accordance with the current process of the revival of Indian geo¬ 
graphical names, which is a consequence of the recent political changes in India. 

* H. B. Rowney —The Wild Tribes of India, pp. 63-8. 



The next step taken by the Government was to mark off an area 
surrounding the Kajmahal Hills by a ring fence of masonry pillars in order- 
to make the Paharia settle down in the valley lands as rent-paying 
cultivators. This demarcated area, known as the Damin-i-koh (a 
Persian word meaning * skirts of hills ’), was formed in 1832. The cir¬ 
cumference of the ring fence was 295 miles, containing a total area of 1366 
square miles. Of this total area, there were 866 square miles of highland 
and 500 of lowland. Of the latter 254 square miles had been reclaimed 
in 1851. 1 The purpose behind this policy of settlement was threefold : 
(1) to take advantage of the strategic position of Damin-i-koh for the 
defence of Bengal; (2) to increase land revenue, and (3) to promote trade. 
But the Paharia did not care to come down from their villages perched 
on the summits of the hills. On the other hand, the Santal were eager to 
make use of the fertile, forest-covered vallev lands within Damin-i-koh 
which were thrown open to them. This eagerness greatly accelerated 
the migration of the Santal from the south which at that time had been 
going on for at least fifty years. 

The Santal migrated into and arouud Damin-i-koh in such masses 
that, as Hunter tells us, the population within this area increased from 
3,000 in 1838 to 82,795 in 1851, plus 10,000 outside the ring fence of 
pillars. 2 Migration was by no means confined to this area. About the 
same time as the formation of the Damin-i-koh, a number of British 
planters,—many of them experienced plantation-owners from the 
West Indies before the abolition of slavery,—set up indigo plantations in 
Bengal. There was a great demand for labour for these plantations. 
Bands of Santal, along with other tribesmen, were recruited by indigo- 
planters in Bengal. 

Damin-i-koh thus rapidly became the center of Santal tribal life. The 
original settlers had to pay only a nominal rent to the Government. 
But as jungles were cleared up, and more and more land was brought 
under cultivation, the English officer-in-charge, increased the tax. The 
revenue rose from £668 in 1838 to £6803 in 1854. The Government was 
delighted with the increase in the annual returns, and called Damin-i-koh 
a model of cheap and practical administration. 3 

At the same time Hindu traders and money-lenders infiltrated into 
Damin-i-koh. Every winter, after the harvest, they would go to the 
Santal area to exchange salt, cloth, oil, and tobacco for rice, mustard 

1 Hunter—ibid., p. 223, footnote. 

* ibid., p. 234. 

3 ibid., p. 231. 



and other oilseeds. In course of time, market towns with resident 
Hindu mahdjans (traders and money-lenders) sprang up throughout the 
settlement. The mahdjans took advantage of the Santal in various 
ways. In exchange, they would use heavy weights in the case of grains 
they purchased and light weights for measuring the articles given in 

The Santal, in addition, had to bear hardships arising out of usury. 
A new settler or a family who feasted away its harvest in a short while 
would have to borrow rice or money from the mahajan at an exorbitant 
rate of interest. For a loan of rice the rate of interest was as high as 
100 per cent. For a loan of money the rate was from 50 to 75 per cent. 

A bond had to be signed by the borrower. As the Santal were 
illiterate, the scrawling of an arrowhead or some such mark on the bond 
would legally bind the borrower. There were two kinds of bond systems, 
Jcamioti and lidrwahi . Under these bonds the borrower bound himself 
to work for the lender till the repayment of the loan. Unde^ the latter 
system the borrower had, in addition to personal service, to plough the 
fields of the lender whenever required. In return for this work he 
would get* only one seer or two lbs. of unhusked rice a day. It was 
practically impossible for the borrower to repay the loan, because he 
had always to work for the lender, and never had time to plough his 
own fields or work somewhere. else for wages. On the death of the 
debtor, his son and future generations would be responsible for the 
debt. 1 Sometimes for an initial loan of Ks. 25 ($10), 2 three generations 
would work their whole lives, and still the debt would remain unpaid. 

Those who managed to borrow without a condition of personal 
service had to pay compound interest at the rate of about 33 per cent. 
Their harvest would be seized for interest year after year. Proceedings 
would eventually be instituted against them in British courts of law, 
where wealthy mahdjans could purchase decrees in their favour. Once 
the decree was obtained, the police and other executive officers of the 
government, stimulated by the additional reward of bribes, would help 
the mahdjans in seizing land, cattle, ploughs and domestic utensils 
belonging to the Santal in the name of law and order. Deprived of all 
resources, the Santal would have to borrow again, and become bond 
serfs of the mahdjan i working for him in return for no more than bare 
subsistence. By this process, the once free Santal were reduced to the 
status of serfs. 

1 Sir«Goorgo Yule’s Report on the Sonthal Pergunnahs for 1858. Quoted from E. G. 
Man —gonthalia and the Sonthals, pp. 25-6. 

* The exohange rate of 1946 has been adopted heie and in the subsequent pages. 



Many of the Santal gave up all their holdings and fled back to the 
sterile country they came from. But the vast majority remained as 
serfs. In 1854 the East Indian Railway Loop Line was being built. 
The construction of this line skirting the Santal country to the east and 
northeast for about 200 miles created a new demand for labour. The 
Santal who were landless and had not yet' become bond serfs took up 
employment in railway construction. Those who already became bond 
serfs were anxious to run away and join the railway gangs. This sudden 
demand for free labour made the serfs more valuable to the mahajans 
who redoubled their vigilance in order to prevent escape. Restlessness 
and desperation among the Santal were increasing. 

— 2 — 

The sufferings resulting from the joint exploitation by 'mahajans 
and government officials drove the Santal to the point of desperation. 
Their decision to act was greatly influenced by the memories of the days 
when they were free. A movement named Kherwar resulted, actuated 
by the desire to restore tribal independence from foreign domination. 

During the first half of the year 1855 in Damin-i-koh tensions heigh¬ 
tened, and all kinds of stories spread. A vivid description of these stories 
and subsequent events during and after the rebellion is found in the 
accounts left by two contemporary Santal, Jugia Hatam and Chotrae 
Desmanjhi. From the account dictated by the former, and noted down 
by Skrefsrud, a Scandinavian missionary, the following stories preceding 
the rebellion are quoted : 

(1) At first it was said that the Lag Login 1 snakes were moving 
around and swallowing men. To remove this evil the people of five 
villages met together and after fasting, went in the night to another 
group of five villages. Men of five villages, one from each house, 
came to our village. They beat drums at the outer door of the 
Manjhi’s house and danced round it. They hung wooden bells 
round their waists and the swaying of their bodies made the bells 
give out a great sound. Two unmarried boys put on the sacred 
thread 2 and carried round in a basket two small ploughs 
made of nim (Melia Azadirachta) and bel (iEgle Marmelos) 
wood and marked with vermilion. 3 After doing a round of 
five villages, they assembled the villagers in an open place 

1 Mythical snakes of a voracious nature. 

a The sacred thread, worn round over the left shoulder and under the right arm-pit, 
is the mark of the Hindus of the Branmana and K§alriya castes. Now-a-days many 
Hinduized Santal, like a number of low Hindu castes, have begun to wear the sacred 
thread in an attempt to improve their social status. 

8 The plough symbolizes the basio economy of the Santal, which is agriculture- 
Nim and bel trees, and vermilion are purifying objeots. 



at the last village. There in the name of the Lag Lagin snakes 
they offered bel leaves, arwa rice, oil and vermilion. 1 After that 
they taught each village the catch song 2 and putting the sacred 
thread on two of our unmarried boys gave them the ploughs and 
returned to their houses. We then joined four other villages and 
went round five villages in the same way. After doing a round of 
five villages we entrusted the ploughs to the villagers of the five 
villages and put the sacred thread on two of their unmarried boys. 
We worshipped in the name of Lag Lagin snakes and having taught 
them the song returned home. When we returned the men cleaned 
the courtyards and the cowsheds and brought a pot full of water. 3 
As long as their men were away in the night, our wives did not put 
their feet to the ground, but kept cowdung by their cots, put their 
feet upon it and suckled their children. 4 

(2) After this they spread another rumour. Those women who 
had an equal number of children swore eternal friendship and 
exchanged flowers in groups of two. They exchanged clothes and 
ate and drank together. Why no one knows. Perhaps it was to 
keep a solid front and be all related so that when the rebellion 
began no one would speak behind another’s back and whatever 
happened would be kept secret. 

(3) Yet another rumour grew. People said , “ A buffalo cow 
is moving in the country. Whenever it finds grass at someone’s 
outer door, it halts and grazes and until all the members of the 
household have died it does not move away.” Therefore through¬ 
out the land they dug up all the grass in the village streets. 

(4) Then another rumour arose. “ People are coming to kill 
the Dekos. 5 Hang up at the end of the village street a bullock skin 
and a flute, so that they will know that you are Santal. Otherwise 
they will kill all of you.” So fearing this would happen we hung 
up these things in every village. 6 

1 Bel leaves, arwa or sun-dried rice, oil and vermilion are articles of ritualistic import 
ance to the Hindus. Their use by the Santal is an indication of Hindu influence. 

1 That is, a song for catching the Lag Lagin snakes. 

8 This act signifies cleanliness which is regarded as a necessary precaution against 

4 This action indicates that women, seized with fear, stayed in bed. Cowdung was 
kept nearby, because it is regarded as a sacred object with power to avert evil. 

5 Non-Santal foreigners are called Dekos. 

6 Quoted from W. J. Culshaw and W. G. Archer—“ The Santal Rebellion, ” Man in 
India, pp. 230-1. 



Two outstanding leaders arose from among the Santal. They were 
two brothers, Sido and Kanhu, and came to be known as Subo Thdkur, 
i.e., leaders who have received supernatural sanction to guide their 
people. These leaders were later joined by their two other brothers, 
Cand and Bhairab. It is significant that Sido and Kanhu, the two 
original leaders with supernatural sanction, came from Barheit valley, 
in the very heart of Damin-i-koh, where the sufferings of the people 
were greatest. Sido and Kanhu themselves lost all their land and 
experienced hardships. 

Another Santal of the time, Chotrae Desmaiijhi, gives the following 
account of the objectives of these leaders and the methods they used to 
ensure the assistance of the supernatural beings termed bohga: 

Before the rebellion Sido and Kanhu had preached that we 
should only pay eight annas for a buffalo plough and four annas for 
a bullock plough and if the rulers did not agree we should start 
fighting. We should slay all the - unspeakable Dekos and become 
the rulers ourselves. 

Before the rebellion started oil and vermilion in leaf cups were 
sent by Sido and Kanhu and taken round from village to village to 
placate the boiigas so that they might help in the fight. 1 

The above quotation shows the demands of the Santal with regard to 
taxes, and their determination to fight for independence. Oil and vermi¬ 
lion in leaf cups sent round from village to village means not only securing 
supernatural assistance, but also of rallying the people behind the idea of 
an eventual struggle. The most important factor responsible for the 
struggle that followed was material hardship arising out of usury, loss 
of land and bond-serfdom. 

The rebellion did not start at once. The leaders first petitioned the 
local authorities to redress their grievances by regulating usury and 
reducing land tax. But the English superintendent put aside the com¬ 
plaints, and continued the policy of collecting revenue as usual. Then 
the Santal leaders had recourse to the Commissioner—a high English 
official in charge of a division of the province—and told him plainly 
that if he would not redress their grievances, they would redress them 
themselves. 2 - 

Finally, Sido and Kanhu sent emissaries with their national signal— 
the branch of a sal tree—to every village in every mountain valley. 

1 Chotrae Desmanjhi realc ’ Katha (in Santali)—Translated by Stephen Hari Tudu 
and Mildred Archer. Quoted from W. J. Culshavr and W. G. Archer—“ The Santal 
Rebellion,” Man in India, pp. 23*2-et seq. 

2 Hunter—-ibid., pp. 237*8. 



Masses of Santal, armed with bows, arrows, and battle-axes assembled. 
The leaders with a body of 30,000 (accompanied by their wives and 
children) marched toward Calcutta on June 30, 1855, to place the matter 
before the Governor-General. Near Bhagnadi, in the heart of the 
Barheit valley, on July 7, a daroga or police inspector attempted to 
arrest the leaders. This so enraged the Santal that they hacked the 
daroga , with nine members of his platoon, to pieces. 

The cry Hul ! Hul ! (Rebel ! Rebel !) was now heard everywhere 
as the rebellion got under way. The Santal sought out oppressive 
mahdjans , quickly put them to death, and looted bazaars (market places). 
“ Indeed, the movement could not be distinguished at first from their 
great national processions, headed by the customary drums and fifes. 
Want drove them to plunder, and the precipitate outrage upon the 
inspector of police changed the whole character of the expedition.” 1 

As the news of the rebellion circulated, other Subo Thdkurs 2 arose 
among the Santal. They likewise raised private armies, looting 
bazaars and killing the mahdjans . Soon British troops, together with 
trained Indian infantry, were sent against the rebels. The Santal crowds 
were put down without mercy, and Santal villages burned. The rebels, 
however, fled into the jungles, where they carried on their struggle with 
bows, arrows and battle-axes, suffering hunger, and dying in great num¬ 
bers. Three songs of rebellion that reveal the psychology of the Santal 
may be quoted: 

(1) Saheb 5 rule is trouble full, 

Shall we go or shall we stay ? 

Eating, drinking, clothing, 

For everything we are troubled ; 

Shall we-go or shall we stay ? 4 

(2) Kenaram Becharam 

Longed for land in Piparjuri 
They bound the Li^ipara manjhi 

And took them to the Sahib’s door. 5 

(3) Sido, why are you bathed in blood ? 

Kanhu, why do you cry Hul, Hul ? 

For our people we have bathed in blood, 

For the trader thieves 
Have robbed us of our land. 5 

1 ibid., pp. 238-40, 

2 They were Mani Pargana, Ram Pargana, Binod Mofijhi, and Sam Subo. 

3 The word ‘ saheb * refers to Englishmen/ 

* W* J. Culshaw and W. G. Archer—“ The Santal Rebellion.” p. 210. 

3 W. G. Archer—“ Santal Rebellion Songs”, Man in India, p. 207. 



Martial law was finally declared in parts of the districts of Bhagalpur 
and Mursidabad and the whole of Birbhum on November 10, 1855. 
Regular troops were employed to put down the revolt which was officially 
declared to be over at the end of the year, and martial law was suspend¬ 
ed. 1 Sido died in battle ; Kanhu and many other leaders of the rebellion 
were arrested and hanged in mahua trees in the field of Jhilimili. 

As a result of the rebellion, the Santal people experienced great 
economic hardships, and again large scale migration took place, especially 
to the districts of northern Bengal across the river Ganga. An account 
of this migration has been related by Cho^rae Desmanjhi, a contem¬ 
porary Santal, as follows: 

After the rebellion we Santals were scattered through poverty. 
Because of hunger, the Santals who had meant to be rulers had to 
go back to the Dekos and beg them to feed us. Some people 
returned towards Sikhar, earning their livelihood by day labour as 
they went. Most people went on the land in order to earn their 
living and worked under Dekos. Others went to the towns to earn 
their living. In this way owing to hunger, we Santals crossed the 
Ganges to earn our living and were scattered as far as the Pandua 
forests, Sikharpur, Catai, and the country of Barin. 2 

About the same time tea plantations were being developed in Assam. 
Tea planters sent recruiting agents to the western highlands in Bengal, 
Bihar, and Orissa, and as a result, many Santal and other aboriginal 
tribesmen went to Assam to work in the plantations. An idea of the 
rate of recruitment per month may be obtained from the following 
statement by Hunter: 

In 1865, when an ex-officio superintendent of labour transport 
at Kooshtea, I estimated the number at 3000 a month. In July it 
amounted to 3827, in May to 3236 adult labourers, or including 
children, to about 4000 souls. 8 

Since the rebellion, the territory in and around Damin-i-koh has been 
constituted into a separate district called Santal Parganas. This dis¬ 
trict, which has an area of 5,470 square miles, is bounded on the north 
by the districts of Bhagalpur and Pumea, on the east by Malda. 
Mursidabad and Birbhum, on the south by Burdwan and Manbhum, 

1 R. McPherson— Final Report on the Survey and Settlement Operations in the District 
cj Santal Parganas, 1898-1907, pp. 37-8. 

* Chotrae Desmanjhi reak’ Katha—ibid., p, 237* * The country of * Barin * refers to 
the districts of northern Bengal. 

* Hunter—ibid., p. 257, footnote. 



•and on the west by Hazaribagh, Monghyr and Bhagalpur. Formerly, 
a part of the province of Bengal, now it belongs to the province of Bihar. 
This district is today the principal center of Santal population. 

By the Act XXXVII of 1855 the district of Santal Parganas was 
removed from the operation of general laws and regulations, and a special 
system of administration introduced. The district was divided into 
four sub-districts, each sub-district being put under one Deputy Commi¬ 
ssioner and four Assistant Commissioners. By the Police Buies of 1856 
the nunjki or headman of every Santal village, and the pargana or head 
of a group of villages were entrusted with police duties. The right of 
appointing and dismissing a mdnjhi and pargana was assumed by 
the Deputy Commissioner. The principal features of the special or 
non-regulation system introduced in the Santal Parganas after the 
rebellion were : 

(1) To have no intermediary between the Santal and the 
Assistant Commissioner ; (2) to have complaints made verbally 
without a written petition or the presence of amla (clerks of the 
court) ; (3) to have all criminal work carried on with the help of the 
Santals themselves, who were to bring in the accused, with the 
witness, to the courts. 1 

Another legal measure taken by the Government was to abolish the 
kamioti system of bondage. 

The above measures, though an improvement on the situation existing 
in the pre-rebellion period, did not materially alter the position of the 
Santal. For, without any resources, they had again to resort to 
borrowing from the mahdjans ; and though the kamioti system of bond- 
serfdom was abolished, the Government did not strike at the root of the 
problem by curtailing the high rates of interest, and making arrangement 
for cheap agricultural credits. 

The present distribution of the Santal is extensive. They are mainly 
found in all the forest-covered uplands of Western Bengal, Bihar and 
Orissa between the rivers Gahga on the north and Vaitaram on the south. 
An extension of the tribe, consisting of large colonies, is also found 
in the districts of northern Bengal across the Ganga. A few isolated 
colonies of the Santal, with a total population of about 84,000, are 
now settled in the tea plantations and other areas of Assam. 

1 L. S. S, O’Malley —Santal Parganas, second edition, p. 61. 



The total population of the Santal, according to 1941 census, is 
2,732,266, out of which Bihar accounts for 1,534,646, and Bengal for 
829,025. The distribution of Santal population is as follows : 1 

Locality 1931 

Bihar and Orissa .......... 1,712,133 

Santal Parganas ......... 754,801 

Pnrnea .......... . 46,995 

Bhagalpur .......... 30,799 

Monghyr .......... 26,742 

Hazaribagh . . * ...... 129,103 

31anbhum . ......... 282,315 

Sinbhum .......... 108,890 

Feudatory States ......... 309,540 

Elsewhere .......... 22,981 

Bengal ............ 796,656 

Dinajpur .......... 130,338 


Bogra ........... 5,351 

Rajsahi. 25,591 

Jalpaiguri ...... . 27,859 

BIrbhum ...... ... 64,079 

Burdwan ...... . . 101,522 


Midnapur .......... 169,750 


MurSidabad. 22,725 

Elsewhere .......... 24,716 

It will be seen from the above table that the district of Santal Parganas 
contains by far the largest number of Santal. Next in order of numerical 
strength come the districts of Manbhum, Midnapur, Dinajpur, Hazari¬ 
bagh, Sinbhum and Bankura. It may be noted that, leaving aside 
Dinajpur, six of the above-mentioned seven districts are contiguous 
and roughly occupy the middle portion of Santal territory. This middle 
portion, which is the area of greatest concentration of the Santal today, 
falls within the Chofa Nagpur plateau. Chota Nagpur, which also har¬ 
bours allied Munda-speaking tribes like the Munda, Ho, Kharia and 
others, may be said to be one of the most important ‘cultural pockets’ in 
India, in which aboriginal tribes, under the ever-growing pressure of 
alien peoples, found shelter. 

1 Census of India, 1931, 1, pt. Ill, Sec. B, p. 97. As the district-wisp population 
figures for the Santal for the three provinces of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa are 
not available in the Census Report of 1941, the figures mentioned in the Census 
Report of 1931 have been given here. 


Santal Cultural Heritage 

The district of Santal Parganas where most of the Santal live today 
is an upland tract with a hilly backbone running from north to south. 
It forms the extreme north-east corner of the Deccan and Chota Nagpur 
plateaus, jutting out into the valley of the Ganga. It has three natural 
divisions—(1) the hilly portion which comprises about three-eighths of 
the entire district, (2) the rolling country covering about one-half, and 
(3) the flat country occupying the remainder. It is the fertile forest- 
covered valley regions of the hilly portion that form the principal center 
of Santal population. 

The flat country has the damp heat and moist subsoil characteristics 
of the adjoining province of Bengal. The hilly portion and the rolling 
country have the rapid drainage and dry subsoil characteristics of Chota. 
Nagpur. The mean temperature of the district increases from 64° 
in the winter to 100° in April. Rainfall is heaviest in July with 14",. 
and lowest in November and April, when it does not exceed an inch. 
The average annual rainfall would be about 58". 1 

The trees of economic value to the Santal, that grow in this region,, 
are sal (Shorea robusta), mahua (Bassia latifolia), banyan, palm, mango,, 
mm, bamboo, etc. Sal and mahua play a very important part in Santal 
culture. Sal trees are used in building houses, and regarded as sacred. 
Mahua trees supply the people with fruits and flowers which are eaten, 
and are also used in making alcoholic drinks. Many of the animals that 
abound in this region, such as deer, wild pigs, different varieties of fowl,, 
quail and ducks, are hunted by the Santal. They also supplement their 
food supply by fishing. 

The language of the Santal is one of the oldest tongues of India- 
Known as Santali, it belongs to the Munda group, which, according to 
P. W. Schmidt, is a member of the Austro-Asiatic sub-family of the 
Austric family. Allied languages, besides Munda itself, are Bhumij, 
Ho or Larka Kol, Korwa, Kharia, Korku, Karmali or Kolha, Mai or 
Mahle, Juang, Savara, and Gadba, spoken by tribes inhabiting, in 
the main, the Chota Nagpur plateau, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.. 

1 L. S. S. O’Malley —Santal Parganas, pp. 24-5. 

10 ASI/54 




The Munda languages, with the exception of Kharia, Korku, 
Juang, Savara and Gadba, are generally grouped together under the 
common term Kherwari. 1 

Broadly speaking, one can divide the various forms of the Santali 
language into two sub-divisions, Northern Santali and Southern Santali. 
The former, which is spoken by the people treated of in this study, is 
heard in the districts of Bhagalpur, Monghyr, Santal Parganas, Birbhum, 
Bankura, Hazaribagh and Manbhum. It is regarded as the { ‘stand¬ 
ard” form, and is the language of the great majority of the people. 
The latter, found in the southern districts of Santal territory, has been 
termed by one student “ a dialect, or, possibly, a group of dialects.” 2 

— 2 — 

Santal villages, buried deep in the forests, have a characteristic pattern. 
Every village consists of a long street with a single row of dwellings on 
either side. A dwelling consists of one or more huts, according to the 
resources of the owner. The dimensions of a hut are generally 14'X 
14'X 8'. Each dwelling has its cattle-shed, pig-sty, and dove cot on 
one side of the rectangular or square compound. Buffalo sheds are 
scattered here and there. Inside the principal hut of each dwelling- 
complex, a small space in one corner, called bhitar , is set off by a low 
wall. This space is reserved for family deities and ancestral spirits. 
The huts are without any windows. 

Near every village there is a sacred grove of sal trees, which is a part 
of the forest where the clearing for the village site was first made-# This 
grove, known as jahcerthan , is regarded as the abode of the principal 
deities worshipped by the people. In every village, opposite the house of 
the mdnjlii or headman, there is a place called monjhithan , which is held 
to be the abode of the spirit of the original founder, the first headman 
of the village. 

The walls of Santal huts are built of thin sticks plastered with mud, 
rafters of sal wood, and roofs of bamboo. The roof has usually two sides, 
with a gable at each end, and is thatched with sauri grass (Heteropogon 

1 G. A. Grierson —Linguistic Survey of India, IV, p. 27. 

2 A. Campbell —A Santali’English and English-Sayitali Dictionary, second-' edition, 
•edited by H. M. Macphail, p. 1. 



Contortus R & S) or paddy straw. A gable, as seen in a Santal hut, may 
be represented as below : 

In the above figure, the triangular space g stands for the gable. 

The household furniture of the Santal is very meagre. It consists 
of carpal or bedstead (which is a network of coarse strings on a rough, 
rectangular wooden frame with four wooden or bamboo legs), a few brass 
or earthenware pots for storing water, a few bell-metal dishes, and 
handleless brooms of twigs. Fresh sal leaves are daily stitched together 
to serve as plates and cups. Wooden rice-huskers and mortars, and 
stone hand-mills are found in some houses. 

The technological equipment of the Santal is simple. A wooden 
bar, sometimes fitted with a flat piece of iron at one end is used for digging 
•out roots and making holes. The agricultural implements consist of the 
plough, argom (clod-crusher), pick-axe, Jcudi or spade, karha and raksa. 
The two last-named implements are made of wood, and used for level¬ 
ling a field after it has been ploughed. 

Hunting is done with bows and arrows. The bow is made of bamboo 
or some resilient wood, and the string is of hemp or bamboo. Arrows 
are generally made of sar grass (Saccharam cara Roxb.). Nets and 
basketry traps are used for fishing. Besides bows and arrows, the 
•chief weapons of offence and defence are pellet bows, spears, battle axes, 
and shields. 1 

The Santal generally eat twice a day ; a third meal can be afforded 
only by a few. The daily menu consists of daka or boiled rice and utu 
or curry. Utu is made of lentils, peas, etc., vegetables, meat or fish. 
.Daka and vegetable utu may be said to form the daily diet, since meat and 
fish are available only occasionally, that is, when the Santal go hunting 

1 P. 0. Bodding—“ Notes on the Santals ”, pp. 103-4. 




and fishing. Domestic animals are killed, as a rule, only on the occasion 
of social and religious festivals. The animals that enter the Santal 
dietary at some time or other include fowls, pigs, cows, bullocks, buffaloes, 
jackals, rats, snakes, lizards, tortoises, crocodiles, and various sorts 
of birds. The meat of dogs, cats, and horses are regarded with 
abhorrence. The food supply of the Santal is also supplemented by a 
number of wild millets, fruits, roots, and plants collected from the forests. 
These supplementary foods attain a special significance in times of 

The principal beverage of the Santal is a kind of rice beer called 
hcmdi. This drink can also be prepared from janhce (Paspalum scro- 
biculatum L.) and other millets. They likewise make an intoxicating 
liquor, called paura, distilled from dried flowers of mahua (Bassia 
latifolia). Tobacco is used in two ways. First, a dried tobacco 
leaf or a part of it, rolled into a sal leaf, is used for smoking. 
Secondly, bits of dried tobacco leaves are mixed with a kind 
of lime, chewed, and then left in a corner of the mouth between cheek 
and teeth, till it becomes tasteless and is spat out. 

The working dress of a Santal man consists of hopni , a narrow strip- 
of cloth passed between the legs and tied to a string wound round the 
loins. At other times, he wears round his waist a piece of cloth about 
3 yards long and 30 inches broad. A Santal woman drapes herself' 
with a larger piece of cloth, 6 yards by 36 inches. All these clothes 
are made of cotton. Men as well as women wear their hair long, and 
tied into a knot at the back of the head. Women use cow-tail hairs 
for tying their coiffures. Both sexes are fond of decorating themselves, 
with flowers, feathers, and cow-tail hair necklaces. 

— 3 — 

Santal economy is based on agriculture. Collecting, hunting and: 
fishing are subsidiary, though important, sources of living. Animal; 
husbandry has a minor place. 

Three classes of land are cultivated : (1) barge or the land about the 
dwelling, especially in the rear, (2) goda or highland fields at a little dist¬ 
ance from the dwelling, and (3) Ichet or rice-fields. The most important 
crop cultivated on barge is jondra, i.e., maize or Indian corn (Zea Mays L.).„ 
Other crops cultivated on barge include jdri (Hibiscus cannabinus L.), 
bajra (Sorghum vulgare Pera) 0 certain winter legumes, beans, vegetables, 
such as, eggplant, gourd, pumpkin, and oilseed-bearing plants. Goda 
or highland fields produce about seven varieties of jungle millets, the- 



principal ones being iri (Panicum Orusgalli L.), gundli (Panicum miliara 
Lamarck), and janhce (Paspalum scrobiculatum L.) 1 . Several kinds of 
cotton plant, especially Gossypium herbaceum L. and Gossypium ar- 
boreum L., are also cultivated for weaving. 

Khet or rice-fields are terraced on tlie bill slopes. Three kinds of 
khet are distinguished by different names, according to their position. Of 
these, the fields lowest down on the slopes are regarded as the best. 
Pice is the staple crop. With one exception, all rice is transplanted. 
There are numerous varieties of transplanted rice. The only variety 
that is sown broadcast is cultivated not on a khet but on goda, and hence 
called goda horo or highland rice. Pice is generally planted toward the 
end of May and the beginning of June. The best rice baihar horo ripens 
in November and December. 2 

Ploughing is done by cows and buffaloes. Cowdung and ashes are 
used as manure. Cultivation is mainly dependent on rainfall, but the 
Santal have also devised a system of artificial irrigation. Bandhs or 
embankments are constructed across ravines, hollows, or other natural 
depressions, in order to retain natural moisture. Both men and women 
take part in agricultural operations. There is a division of labour on the 
basis of sex, however, in accordance with which the heavier work, such 
as, clearing forests, or ploughing and constructing a bandh , is done by 

Some idea of the place of collecting in Santal economy can be obtained 
by indicating the number of varieties of different kinds of forest plants 
that are gathered and eaten, either raw or cooked. About eighty-two 
varieties of wild plants, seventy varieties of fruits, seven varieties of 
resins, thirty-one varieties of mushrooms, and seven varieties of jungle 
millets are gathered at some time or other. Matkom or mahua (Bassia 
latifolia Roxb.), mad or bamboo, and sarjom or sal (Shorea robusta) are 
very important trees, which not only supply the Santal with food in the 
form of flowers, fruits, and young shoots (in the case of bamboo), but also, 
as has been said, serve many other purposes, such as providing medicines, 
yielding wood for building, and forming the base for liquor. 3 Wild 
plants, roots, fruits and flowers of the forest also insure against the re¬ 
current scarcities of the summer season, and help in warding off tho 
famines that result from crop failures. Wild foods are collected by women 
who work together in groups. 

1 P. 0. Sodding —How the Savtals Live , pp. 434 ; 442*5. 

2 ibid-, pp. 435-8. 

3 ibid. 



The Santa! hunt any game available, but do not deliberately molest 
tigers or bears. This is understandable from the fact that the chief 
weapon they have is the bow and arrow. Hunting is done only by the 
men who never go singly into the forest for this purpose. The men of an 
entire village, or sometimes even of a group of villages, organize hunting 
expeditions, usually in summer. For hunting purposes, the hills and 
forests are generally divided into sections, each under the jurisdiction of a 
dihri who may be said to be the spiritual and secular leader of a hunt. 
The dihri is usually a Santal who holds no official position, but is elected 
because of his knowledge of the appropriate sacrifices and formulas nece¬ 
ssary to assure success and avoid harm on the hunt. 

Hunts may be either formal or informal. Informal one-day hunts, 
par 1 sendra, do not require the presence of the dihri, since the hunters 
return home the same evening. The annual tribal hunt, however, 
known as gipitid 2 sendra, Id* hir 4 sendra, or disom sendra , lasts from two 
to four days, and here the presence of the dihri is essential. The annual 
hunt is a great event, attended by all able-bodied members of a whole 
countryside. The socio-political significance of this formal annual hunt 
will be seen later. 

The Santal catch fish in their rivers and artificial ponds, which provide 
many varieties of fish. Four fishing methods are employed : (1) netting, 
(2) the use of traps, (3) shooting with bows and arrows and (4) vegetable 
poisoning. The first two methods are the most important. Fishing is 
generally done by groups of men. Quite often there are public fishing 
expeditions in which the men of an entire village, or a number of villages, 

The domestic animals of the Santal include fowls, pigs, goats, cows, 
buffaloes, and pigeons. Fowls and pigs are important for sacrificial 
purposes. The milk of goat is sometimes given to ailing children. The 
flesh of all these animals is eaten. 

Most of the utensils needed by the Santal are obtained from their 
Hindu neighbours. Ploughshares and other articles of iron are made by 
Hinduized blacksmiths, one of which is found in every Santal village* 
These blacksmiths, originally recruited from various aboriginal tribes, 
have been racially mixed with Hindus, and now form an occupational 
group called Lohar. Articles of pottery and basketry are also purchased 
from Hindu artisans. 

There seems to be some difference of opinion as to the existence of 
weaving among the Santa!. Man, writing in 1867, stated that the Santal 
‘‘ have weavers from their own tribe,” and that “ each man Is his own 

• — ■ *-■ • — \U 

1 ^or=bush. 2 (jipitic\ lit. to pass the night together, 3 lo, lit. to fetch- 4 bir~- fores 



carpenter.But Dalton, writing in 1872, says that “ they have no 
weavers among their own people.” 2 This discrepancy can be resolved 
by taking into account the following two factors : (1) Man worked in 
the Santal Parganas, while Dalton knew the Santal living further south, 
and hence in closer contact with and more dependent on Hindu artisans. 
(2) The Santal people had a crude system of spinning and weaving, by 
which only small pieces of cotton cloth could be woven. It is rapidly 
disappearing, and in the southern regions has already gone out of exis¬ 

The only other Santal crafts are the extraction of oil, and the manufac- 
ture of lime. Oil is extracted from various seeds, wild as well as cultivated. 
Two kinds of oil presses are used. In the first type, a hole is cut into 
the stem of a large mahua tree, and a long piece of timber inserted into 
the hole for pressing the steamed flour of oilseeds wrapped in a straw 
cover. The oil flows into a stone receptacle called cunduc 9 fata . The 
second, and regular oil press, called sunum lenoF or lelen fata , consists 
of two heavy logs of wood, one on top of another, fixed on solid posts at 
the ends. The inner surfaces of the logs are planed, the lower one having 
a ring with a spout cut into it for receiving oil. The two logs are pressed 
by fastening a rope round a belaying-pin. Lime, used with dried to¬ 
bacco leaves for chewing, is manufactured from burnt mussel or snail 

All Santal economic activities are characterized by a strong coopera¬ 
tive spirit. We recall, for example, how the construction, maintenance 
and repairing of large bandhs or embankments for irrigation purposes is 
performed by the men of an entire village. The height of Santal co¬ 
operative organization is seen in their annual hunt. The dihri who 
leads the hunt fixes the time and place, sends messages to all the village 
groups under his jurisdiction by means of branches of sal leaves. The 
number of leaves on a branch indicate the number of days that must 
elapse before the hunt takes place. On the appointed day all adult 
men of the countryside assemble in a certain forest. For two to four 
days, they hunt in the daytime, and spend the evenings in an open space 
near the forest where, after cooking and eating their game, the group forms 
itself into a Lo bir or Hunt Council, whose functions will be discussed 
later. 3 

1 E. G. Man —Sonthalia and the Sonthals, pp. 81-2. 

2 E. T. Dalton —Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal. 

3 See below, p. 47. 



Labour is regarded as the main source of property rights, since, accord¬ 
ing to Santal tradition, those who clear the forest for village sites and 
cultivation have the right to the land. As clearings used to be made, not 
individually, but by collective effort, individual ownership of land was 
not recognized. Land belonged to the village community, and individual 
members had only usufructuary rights. There used to be an annual 
redistribution of land, which prevented the monopoly of good land by a 
few individuals. The duty of the allocation and redistribution of lands 
was entrusted to the paranik (a member of the pancdyat), who may be 
said to have been the economic head of the village. 

As far as is known, individual ownership of houses, domestic utensils, 
ornaments, tools and weapons, and cattle has always been recognized. 
There are well established rules of inheritance for all these, and for land 
as well. In the case of land, one could inherit the usufructuary right 
only. Otherwise, a man’s property, movable as well as immovable, is 
divided equally among his sons. Daughters have no right of inheritance, 
so that in the absence of sons, the belongings of a dead person go to 
the nearest male agnates. 

— 4 — 

The Santal people are divided into twelve partrilineal exogamous 
paris or sibs, namely, 

(1) Ilasdak 5 

(7) Tudu 

(2) Murmu 

(8) Baske 

(3) Kisku 

(9) Besra 

(4) Haembrom 

(10) Pauria 

(5) Morndi 

(11) Corse 

(6) Sorsen 

(12) Bedea 

Of these the first eleven pans exist today; the twelfth one is supposed 
to have disappeared long ago. According to their folklore, the first 
seven sibs are descended from the seven sons of Pilcu Haram and 
Pilcu Budhi, the progenitors of the Santal. The last five are later 
additions. The Baske were at first a part of the Tudu, but long ago 
the progenitors of the Baske offered baske or stale rice left over from the 
previous meal to the deities. As a result they were degraded, and formed 
into a 'separate sib. The Besra took their name from the immoral 
character who was called Besra. the licentious one. The Pauria and the 


Corse derive their names from the pigeon and the lizard respectively. 
The story goes that the ancestors of these sibs, on the occasion of an 
annual tribal hunt, failed to built anything but pigeons and*lizards. 



About the origin of the twelfth sib, tradition says that the mother of 
the ancestor of the Bedea could not say who the father of her child was. 
When the tribes moved out of Champa (mentioned in Santal mythology 
as one of the centers of dispersion), the Bedea were left behind and lost. 1 

Today the sibs are found scattered all over the Santal territory. 
AVhile every Santal village has a half dozen or more of these sibs represent¬ 
ed in its population, all sibs are represented in any single village only 
rarely. The main function of the sib is to regulate marriage. An 
individual can marry into any other sib except his own, and sex relations 
between members of the same sib are regarded as incestuous. Sib 
membership is patrilineal, so that children belong to the sib of the father. 
A woman, however, adopts the sib of her husband after marriage. There 
is no trace of occupational specialization among the sibs, and all enjoy 
the same social status except the Besra and Corse, who are regarded as 
somewhat inferior. This relative inferiority is expressed in the unwilling¬ 
ness of those belonging to other sibs to marry members of these two 

Every paris or sib is divided into a number of subsibs called khut. 
The number of khut in the various paris varies from thirteen to twenty- 
eight. The following list, showing the number of khuts in each paris 
has been tabulated from a description given by Campbell: 2 

Paris Khut 

1. Kisku. 15 

2. Hasdak’ .......... 15 

3. Murmu ........... 28 

4. Hsembrom .......... 18 

5. Morndi ........... 27 

6. Semen ...... t . ... 23 

7: Tiuju. . 19 

8. Baske .......... 15 

9. Besra ........... 14 

10. Corse. 15 

11. Pauria ........... 13 

Total . 202 

The khut functions primarily in the worship of family bohgas or 
deities. Only members of the same khut can perform the rites of worship 
for family deities together, and partake of the sacrificial offerings of 
chickens and pigs. This significance of a khut is expressed in the Santal 

1 H. H. Risley —The People of India, pp. 442-3. Risley uses the word 1 sept ’ instead of 
•‘sib’ . ' 

7 A. Campbell —A Santali-English and English-Santali Dictionary, pp. 494*5, under 



saving “mit* khutren kanale mit* Jchondrele ”—“ we 'are of one stock, we 
perform sacrifices in the same circle”. 1 The members of a khut have a 
greater sense of kinship and solidarity than siblings belonging to different 
khuts. This fact is manifested in the idea that incest between khut 
members is a much more serious offence than that between siblings. This 
sense of khut kinship and solidarity also prevents a person from marrying 
into the mother’s khut though he can marry into any other khut belonging 
to the mother’s sib. 

The immediate family, headed by the father, is the smallest social 
unit of the Santal. It usually consists of husband, wife and children, 
though in many cases parents and married children continue to live 
together as a joint family till the death of the parents. A person with 
an only daughter may take a ghardijawae, a son-in-law who comes to 
live with the parents-in-law, and works as a son of the family. Polygyny 
is permissible but rare. Levirate or marriage with the widow of an elder 
brother, and sororate or marriage with a younger sister of the wife are 
allowed by tradition. 

A joking relationship exists between a woman and the younger 
brothers of her husband ; but many tabus prevent familiarity between 
a man and the wife of his younger brother. As any physical contact 
between these two relations is considered improper, these tabus serve to 
maintain a respectful distance between them. 

Certain relatives by marriage must avoid mentioning each other’s 
name, for it is disrespectful to do so. These may be grouped in three 
categories : (1) Bahonharea — (a) a man and the wife of his younger 

brother; (6) a man and the wife of his wife’s younger brother. 
(2) Ajhmarea— (a) a woman and the husband of her younger sister ; 

(6) a woman and the wife of her younger brother. (3) Husband and wife. 
Any violation of this tabu is believed to be punished by supernatural 
beings. 2 

The generic Santal name for marriage is bapla. There are seven forms- 
of bapla as follows : 

(1) Kirin balm bajjila is the most common and respected form 
of marriage. It can be contracted only in the case of 
young men and women who have not previously been 
married. It is arranged by the parents of the bride and 

1 P. 0. Bodding— A Santal Dictionary, III, 270. Quoted from G. Gausdal—“ The- 
Khut System of the Santals,” p. 4^2. 

2 P. 0. Bodding—“ On Taboo and Customs connected therewith amongst the San¬ 
tals,” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal „ LXVII, (1898), pt. Ill, No. 1, pp.^1-24. 



bridegroom with the help of a raebaric ’ or match-maker. 
The parties to the union do not have a chance to know each 
other before marriage. If from different villages, they 
would probably never have seen each other till the moment 
of marriage. The parents of the bridegroom have to pay 
pon to the parents of the bride. It is from this that it 
derives the name kirin balm, which means “ bought bride”. 
The amount of pon given for the bride is usually 3, 5, or 
7 rupees ($1*20, $2-40 or $3-20). In addition to this sum 
three or four cloths must be given as gifts to the mother 
of the bride and to others of her nearest female relatives. 
If more than 3 rupees are given, certain return payments 
have to be made by the bride’s parents. Tradition pres¬ 
cribes that in the case of a payment of Rs. 5, the bridegroom 
is entitled to receive a cow, a brass cup, and cloths. In 
the case of a payment of Rs. 7, the return payment would 
include, in addition to the above, a cow with a calf, and a 
brass plate. 1 

(2) Tunki dipil baplci is resorted to by very poor people. There 

is no payment of any kind. One or two friends of the 
bridegroom go to fetch the bride who comes to the house 
of the bridegroom carrying whatever she may have to 
bring with her in a tunki, a small bamboo basket. When 
the bride comes to his house, the bridegroom puts some 
sindur or vermilion on her forehead, and this concludes 
the marriage. 

(3) Sang a marriage is contracted when a widower marries a widow r 

or a divorced woman, or a divorced man marries a widow 
or a divorced woman. The pon for a widow" or a divorced 
woman is half that given for an unmarried girl. The 
reduction of pon in such a case is due to the belief that 
a w r idow r or a divorced woman will rejoin her first husband 
after death, and that the second husband has the right 
of enjoying her in this life. 

(4) Ghardi jawae bapla is arranged by a person with an only daugh¬ 

ter. In this form of marriage the bridegroom comes to live 
with the family of the bride, thus reversing the normal 
practice. No pon is necessary, and all expenses are borne 
by the parents of the bride. 

1 ibid. 



(5) In kirin jawae baplct a husband is acquired for an unmarried 

girl, who has been made pregnant by a man who either 
cannot marry her because of sib affiliations, or does not 
want to marry her. The cost of acquiring a husband has 
to be borne by the offender, for whom the parents of the 
girl act as intermediaries. Formerly, a pair of plough 
bullocks, a cow with a calf, and ten to twelve maunds 1 of 
unhusked rice was the amount given, but this is nowadays 
commuted into a cash payment of Rs. 20 or $8. 1 2 

(6) I tut* bapla or marriage by force is rare. Marriage can bo forced 

on an unmarried girl by merely smearing her forehead with 
vermilion or even red ochre. This may be done either 
(a) when the parents of the girl refuse to consent to the 
match, or (b) when the young man has doubts about 
winning the favour of the girl he wants. In any case, this 
act v T hich forces marriage is regarded as an insult, and 
strongly resented by the parents and co-villagers of the 
girl. As a consequence of this act the young man, if 
caught, may be severely beaten up. Raids may be made on 
the herds and properties belonging to the culprit’s house. 
A. final settlement may be reached only when the father of 
the culprit is forced to pay a fine to the father of the girl, 
and also a sum to the headman of his village for settling 
the matter and thus “ saving the boy’s life ” (who might 
otherwise have been beaten to death). After this settle¬ 
ment, if there is no further objection on the part of the 
girl’s parents to the match, the marriage takes place in the 
regular way. But if there should be any objection, the girl, 
who is considered married by force, has to go through' the 
formalities of divorce. And her status as an unmarried 
girl is gone for ever. 

7) ftir bohk ’ 3 bcipla. If a young man, after having had sex rela¬ 
tions with a girl, refuses to marry her, she may force 
marriage by entering his house, and sitting quietly in a 
corner until the man’s mother, who tries a number of means 
to drive her out, finally yields. The means tried by the 
man’s mother to drive her out are to bum chilli peppers and 
tobacco leaves inside the house w r here the girl has taken 

1 1 maund —82 lbs. 

2 L. S. S. O’Malley —Santal Paryanas, p. 164. 

3 lit. ‘run in’. 



shelter, and to shower abuses and curses on her while waiting 
outside the closed door. If the girl can stand all these 
trials, the mother-in-law yields, opens the door, and calls her 
to come out. If the young man now agrees to marry her, 
the regular marriage ceremony takes place after a short 
separation ; and no formal payment of pon or other presents 
need be made. If, however, he still refuses to marry her, 
both of them are fined by the village pancdyat , and the 
young man has to pay the girl Rs. 3 or §1*20. Like itut* 
this form is very rare. 1 

Though both husband and wife have the right of divorce, it was rare 
in the past for women to exercise this right. There are three causes that 
may lead to divorce : (1) adultery, (2) unwillingness of one of the 
parties to cohabit with the other, and (3) the suspicion, backed by the 
general opinion of the village community, that the wife secretly practises 

The actual conclusion of a divorce has to be preceded by certain pay¬ 
ments, and a ceremony formally terminating matrimonial relations. 
In the case of an adulterous wife, the man with whom she had relations 
must pay the aggrieved husband a sum twice the amount of the pon , 
A wife may divorce an adulterous husband, but in this case there is no 
payment. A husband who desires to divorce his wife for other than these 
reasons must pay her Rs. 5 ($2), plus one cow, about 12 maunds (984 lbs.) 
of unhusked rice, one brass cup and one piece of cloth. A wife suspected 
of practising witchcraft is divorced by simply handing her over to her 
parents or nearest male relatives. 2 

The life cycle of an individual Santal is marked by four important 
rites : janctm chatior, rituals attendant on birth, caco chatior, rites ma¬ 
king the individual a full member of the Santal tribe, marriage ceremonies, 
and death rites. Since these ceremonies have been retained in their 
aboriginal form, with minor variations, by the Santal of Kuotola 
in Birbhum, they will be described in the chapter 3 dealing with the social 
life of this group, and thus need only be mentioned here. 

1 ibid., p. 165. 

2 ibid., pp. 168-70. 

3 See below, chapter VI, pp. 86-91. 



— 5 — 

The smallest political unit of the Santalis the village community. 
It is governed by the pancayat or a council of village elders. A full- 
fledged pancayat has the following seven officials : (1) mohjhi or head¬ 
man ; (2) paranik or paramanik, the assistant headman ; (3) naeke or 
ulo naeke , the village priest entrusted with the duty of worshipping the 
national deities of the people on the occasion of the annual festivals; 
(4) kudam naeke (literally, priest of the back of the house) whose function 
is to propitiate the local spirits residing in the hills and jungles of the 
neighbourhood; (5) jog~mdhjhi who is entrusted with guarding the 
morals of the village youth, (6) jog-paranik , an assistant to the paranik ; 
and (7) godet or the messenger of the pancayat whose duty it is to inform 
the villagers of the place and time of meetings. The most important of 
these officials, which every pancayat must have, are mdhjhi , paranik, 
naeke or ato naeke , jog-monjhi and godet . 

The above officials are customarily elected at the time of the founda¬ 
tion of a village. Later succession to these offices is hereditary, the 
eldest son succeeding the father. The villagers can, however, recall 
any official thought to be incompetent or selfish, and elect a new one 
from among the members of the community. 

The function of the pancayat is to care for any problem that affects 
the village community. If it cannot solve a given problem by itself, a 
meeting of the entire village will be called. If a matter concerns two 
villages, the pancayat of both communities will meet to find a solution. 
Meetings of the pancayat or village community generally take place at 
the mmjhithand At these meetings a decision is reached only when a 
definite majority opinion emerges from prolonged discussion. 

The village community is a part of a larger political unit. About 
ten or twelve villages form a group under the leadership of one headman, 
called pargana or parganclit , elected usually from among the headmen 
of the constituent villages. The pargana has an assistant called des - 
mdnjhi, and a pancayat consisting of the headmen of all the villages 
within his jurisdiction plus other influential men of the locality. Any 
inter-village dispute that cannot be settled by the villages concerned is 
laid before the pargana and his pancayat . The mode of functioning of 
the paftcayat of a group of villages under the presidency of the pargana 
is essentially the same as that of a village pancayat under the monjhi. 

1 See above, p. 34. 



But even the pargana and his pahcayat do not exercise final authority. 
This is vested in the people of a number of groups of villages forming an, 
entire district. This final authority is exercised once every year through 
the medium of the Lo bir or Hunt Council. In the Lo bir, all Santal, with 
or without an official position, have equal status. Any matter may be 
raised here by anyone, and is fully discussed by all interested. As the 
highest court of appeal, the decisions of the Lo bir are binding on all. 
The decision about excommunicating a person from Santal society can 
be taken and executed only by Lo bir. 

In practice, most intra-village matters are settled by the village 
pancciyat. The pargana and Lo bir intervene only in exceptional cases. 
Punishments for most breaches of customary law are traditionally 
fixed, and usually consist of fines. Bitlaha or social ostracism is the most 
severe form of punishment known to the Santal, and is imposed for a 
violation of the rules of sib exogamy or tribal endogamy. It has two 
forms, temporary and permanent. Temporary bitlaha , called for by 
the violation of the rule of sib exogamy, can be lifted by the performance 
of jomjati, an expensive ceremony, and payment of fines. Permanent 
bitlaha , which follows a violation of the rule of tribal endogamy (which 
requires an individual to marry within Santal society), consists of formally 
expelling a person from the tribe for good. 

— 6 — 

According to Santal tradition, the world was raised from under the 
water by Thdkur , the High God, with the help of a tortoise and the 
earthworm-king. This was done in order to provide a place for a pair 
of swans, who laid two eggs out of which came the first human beings, 
Pilcu Haram and Pilcu Budhi, the ancestors of the Santal. 

Thdkur , the Supreme Being, is the giver of life, rain, crops and all 
other necessaries. He is a good and High God living above in the firma¬ 
ment. His displeasure may be incurred by some serious fault on the 
part of the people. For example, it is recounted how the entire Santal 
people, except one righteous couple, was once burnt with a rain of fire for 
their sins. The surviving couple repeopled the earth. But because of 
some dirty habits of the people, Thdkur raised his abode high up far away 
from human habitations. Famines are regarded as a manifestation of 
His displeasure. 

Thdkur is sometimes referred to by the Santal as Cando , Sin Cando, 
Cando Bohga, or Sin Bohga. All these names stand for the Sun God. 
The Santal gurus or shamans object to the use of Cando Bohga ana other 



names for Thdkur on the ground that the latter is higher than, and 
/iifferent from, any of the bohgas or spirits, while the former is but one of 
the bohgas. 

Besides Thdkur , there are numerous bohgas or malevolent supernatural 
beings found everywhere. Each hill, forest, river, pond, etc. is inhabited 
by bohgas. They have great capacity for doing harm to mankind. On 
occasions they may assume the forms of young men and women, and have 
sexual relations with human beings of the opposite sex. They can cause 
disease. All bohgas are feared, and given sacrifices to induce them not 
to do harm. 

The chief of the bohgas are Marah Bum, Morceko or Morceko Turuiko , 
Jahcer era, Gosae era, Pargana Bohga , and Mdhjhi Bohga . The first 
five bohgas reside at the jahcerthan, the sacred grove found near every 
Santal village. Mdhjhi Bohga is located at the mdhjhithan inside the 
village. The Parga?ia Bohga and Mdhjhi Bohga are supposed to have a 
supervisory function over other bohgas. 

Jahcerthan, the abode of the principal deities, is a cluster of trees, 
usually a part of the primeval forest. It is essential that it include five 
trees, four sal and one mahua. A stone for one deity is placed at the 
foot of each. Three sal trees must be in a row, and are meant for JaJcver 
era (the Lady of the grove), Morceko, and Marah Bum. A fourth sal 
tree -standing somewhere near is for the Pargana Bohga ; and the mahua 
tree is reserved for Gosae era. 1 

Other supernatural beings include Sima Bohga, the deity of the 
village boundary, Bahre Bohga, the deity of the village outskirts, Orak 1 
Bohga, the household deity, Abge Bohga, the secret deity of the family, 
and Ancestral Bohga, the spirits of the deceased ancestors. The abode 
of the three last-named bohgas is in the bhitar or family altar, which is 
found inside the house. 

In addition to Thdkur and bohgas , there are a number of monstrous 
beings called rakas, ekagudia or ghormuha, curin, and bhut. The rakas 
are held to be capable of devouring all sorts of animals and men in any 
quantity without being satisfied. The ekagudia or ghormuha are like 
horses, but have only one leg and a head (or just the mouth). They eat 
human beings bought for silver money cast by themselves, and live some¬ 
where in the east. When Santal labourers were being recruited for tea' 
gardens in Assam, it was feared that they were being transported to be sold 

* O’Malley —Santal Parganas, pp. 141-2. 



to the ekagudia. 1 Women who die in pregnancy are buried instead of 
cremated, and become curin . All those who die before the perform' 1 
ance of caco chatior, a ceremony admitting one into full membership 
into Santal society, become bliut. 

There is a strong belief in the existence of secret practitioners of 
witchcraft among the Santal. Women are supposed to have a mono¬ 
poly of this art, forming secret societies which meet in the middle of the 
night. Like bongas, the doers of witchcraft can cause much harm. 
Very often women possessing this art can influence bongas by their femi¬ 
nine charms, and make them do their bidding. They can also cause 
disease and death by consuming the liver of the victim. Hence they are 
regarded as dangerous anti-social elements. 

Thdkur is not usually worshipped, though every Santal must proffer 
at least one sacrifice, jom-sim , to Thdkur in his life time. Jom-sim 
consists of an offering of two goats, or a goat and a sheep, usually followed 
after an interval of a year by another ceremony called kutam dahgra, 
when a cow is offered to Orak’ Bohga and an ox to Marah Burn and 
the ancestral bongas. 

The annual festivals of the Santal are : 

(1) Mrok ’ sim (4) Janthar (7) Balia 

(2) Hariar sim (£) Sohrae (8) Chata porob 

(3) Iri-gundli-nauwai (6) Mdgh sim (9) Jatra porob 

(10) Bata or Pota porob 

In the first seven of the above festivals, the principal bongas are 
worshipped. The first five festivals are all connected with different 
stages of cultivation. The last three festivals in the above list are of 
Hindu origin. MroV sim, sohrae, mdgh sim and baha are the most import¬ 
ant of Santal annual ceremonies. 

Mrok' sim is connected with sowing, and hariar sim with the sprouting 
of rice. Iri-gundli-nauwai is an offering of the first fruits of the millet 
crops, iri and gundli. Janthar is a celebration of the first fruits of the 
winter rice crop, and held in the month of Aglian (November-December). 
Sohrae, the harvest festival, is celebrated for five days and nights in the 
month of Pus (December-January). Sakrat, usually celebrated on the 
last day of Pus with Sohrae, is associated with hunting and ancestral 

Mdgh sim, held in the month of Mdgh (January-February), marks 
the end of the Santal year. On this occasion all contracts of services are 
ended, though they may be renewed if 'desired. These contracts are 

1 P.O. Bodding —Santal Folktales, II, 279*83. 

10 4SI 54 




generally for the employment of cowboys. AH annual wages are paid 
at this time. The Magh sim also has important socio-political functions 
which may be indicated as follows : 

On this occasion, the mdnjhi and other officials of the pancdyat 
place their posts at the disposal of the village community. The mdnjhi , 
in resigning his office, speaks in this way : 

Now, Sirs, as is seen, we are at the end, the month of Magh. 
There is a month of Magh for the thieves (an expression that is 
explained as referring to the fact that there is nothing to be found 
in the fields or on the threshing floors by persons who would take 
anything, the only kind of thieving, viz., of foodstuffs, that occurred 
among the Santals of old); there is a month of Magh for the village 
headman and his deputy ; there is a month of Magh for servants, 
male and female. We have consequently all got a month of Magh , 
so please, if any of you would become our village headman I will 
also resign in the month of Magh . 1 

Similar statements are made by other officials. Then the v cultivators 
give up their lands by saying : 

We too, Sir, have finished. We give our agricultural lands 
and possessions into your hand, Sir headman, for the hot season. 
We shall retain in our possession only our old sites ; these we do not 
give into your hands. Our houses we shall also keep. 2 

After about ten days the mdnjhi calls a meeting of the whole village, 
entertains them with handi , or rice beer, and informs them that he will 
be willing to serve as the headman if the villagers so desire. Generally, 
he is unanimously re-elected. At this meeting other officials make 
similar statements, and are re-elected. Villagers likewise get back their 
lands. Much handi is consumed, everyone is happy, and village life 
resumes its traditional course. 

Baha, performed within about a month of Magh sim, is a spring 
festival, and may be regarded as an offering of the ‘first fruits * of maikom 
or mahua and other wild fruits and flowers. The above ceremonies are 
observed in the jahcerthan or the sacred grove. Magh sim , which takes 
place near some water, is an exception. All these festivals are followed 
by singing, dancing and drinking in the villages. 

Nodding —How the Santals Live, p. 433. 

2 ibid., Tho ‘old sites * in the above statement refer to wives. 



Specialists, termed jdnguru and ojlia guru , are employed by individual 
Santal to protect them against the evil influence of bohgas and doors 
of witchcraft. Jan guru and ojha guru take recourse to divination to 
discover whether it is a bonga or a practitioner of witchcraft that is 
causing misfortune or illness. The most important form of divination 
Is called sunum bonga in which mustard oil and sal leaves are used. In 
the case of witchcraft, ojlia guru can only locate the household where 
the practitioner lives. It is jdn guru alone who can reveal the exact 
identity of the culprit. 

Once the cause of misfortune or illness is known, incantations and 
sacrifices are performed to appease the evil-doing bonga. If the cause 
is witchcraft, and the misfortune persists, the alleged practitioner of 
such black magic is driven out of the village. Murders of such practi-' 
tioners by the surviving relatives of persons believed to have been killed 
as a result of their witchcraft were not rare. 

If called upon to treat a case of illness, the ojha guru may give 
medicine as well as reciting incantations and performing sacrifices. 
'These medicines are prepared from plants, herbs and roots. Bodding 
has provided a list of 305 Santal prescriptions for various human diseases, 
and 15 veterinary medicines. The human diseases for which prescrip¬ 
tions have been collected include fevers, low vitality, madness, small-pox, 
•cholera, and leprosy. 1 There are also a few persons called raranic’ 
who have a good knowledge of herbs and roots, and administer medicine 
if called upon to do so. They do not, however, know anything about 
incantations and sacrifices. 

In addition to incantations, sacrifices and medicines, Santal diviners 
also make use of different kinds of charms and amulets in order to 
•counteract the evil influence of supernatural and human agencies. 

The Santal recognize at least six natural causes of disease. The most 
general of the natural causes is some disorder in sir. The word sir is 
used in a broad sense to mean muscles, sinews, nerves, arteries, and 
veins. The human body is supposed to be made up of a great number 
of sir. Spraining, dislocation, or twisting of any of the sir leads to 
physical complaints. Islcir, a kind of massage, is the best remedy for 
such troubles. Some diseases, again, are caused by tejo, that is, larvae 
or worms. Tejo may be fairly large or so small as to be invisible. Rabies, 
epilepsy, cancer, scabies, ring-worms, etc., are believed to be due to tejo. 

»P. 0. Bodding —Studies in Santal Medicine and Connected Folklore, II. 




A bad diet is held to be the cause of stomach trouble. Eating anything 
that is not clean also leads to disease. Coughs are caused by mist and 
fog, while ophthalmia is held to be the result of bathing in dirty water- 
when the first rain falls. 1 

The Science of ojha or ojha bidia which includes a knowledge of 
incantations, sacrifices, medicines, and charms has to be learnt from an 
ojha guru. It is customary for young men of a village to go through: 
the yearly course of training in ojha science, held by the village ojlm 
guru , commencing from the last days of May to the end of September 
or the beginning of October. Students in these courses are of two 
kinds, amateurs and those who intend to be professionals. All students 
who go through this yearly course become paisari, but they are not 
thereby fit to practise as an ojha. Serious and competent students are 
selected from among the paisari for special training in divination and 
the art of getting possessed by spirits. After attending two or three 
years’ courses, one or two principal students may succeed in becoming 
hat, khura. Onlv a kat khura is considered fit to receive final sid. that, 
is, formal initiation as a full-fledged ojha 2 . 

J P. O. Bodding —The Santals and Disease , pp. 5-8. 

2 ibid.,45-63. 


The Impinging Forces 

For at least a thousand years before the thirteenth century A.D., 
the Santal may be said to have been in contact with the Hindus. The 
period of this contact may even be pushed back to the Age of the Epics 
about the first millennium B. C., in view of the reference in Santal folk¬ 
lore that the ancestors of the Santal collaborated with the Hindu epic 
kings, Rama and Laksmana, in their struggle with the raksasa king, 
Havana, of Ceylon. After the thirteenth century A.D., the Santal had 
contact with the Mohammedans as well. Beginning with the latter part 
of the eighteenth century, the Santal experienced the impact of yet 
another culture, the British. This period has also witnessed an increas¬ 
ingly intimate contact with Hindu culture through the agency of traders 
und money-lenders. 

The principal impinging forces on the life of the Santal people, especi¬ 
ally in the district of Santal Parganas, since the nineteenth century 
have, however, been Hinduism, British Government, and Christianity. 
The absence of Islamic influence on the Santal is difficult to account 
for in view of the fact that the contact with the Mohammedans had 
been established for about seven centuries. The explanation of this 
phenomenon may, perhaps, be found in (1) the rigidity of Islam, and 
(2) the feeling of repulsion aroused in the people of the country, including 
the Santal, by the early invading Mohammedans from Afghanistan and 
Central Asia. The word Turuk, which came into general use in referring 
to these early invaders, and which till recently carries a connotation of 
contempt, is sometimes extended to the present day Mohammedans 
the bulk of whom are converted Hindus. There have been cases of 
Mohammedans marrying Santal women, who have left Santal society, 
and become converted into Islam. No instances are on record of a 
Santal marrying a Mohammedan woman. 

Hinduism has had a considerable influence on Santal culture, in 
recent times as well as in the distant past. All aspects of Santal life, 
material, economic, social, religious, and linguistic, have been affected 
by Hindu culture. A few examples, of the many that could be given, 
may be cited here. One of the names for the Santal High God, Thdkur , 
is of Hindu origin. The name for the Santal village council, the most 
important unit of their socio-political organization, pancdyat, is also 
of Hindu origin. Santal tradition tells how in antiquity the Santal met 
and decided to adopt certain Hindu customs, in accordance with which 



the aboriginal way of disposing of the dead by burial was replaced by 
the Hindu rite of cremation. 

The influence of Hinduism on the Santal may be accounted for by 
the following factors: (1) the duration of the contact for about 3,000 
years ; (2) the fact that Hinduism is the culture of the dominant group ; 
and (3) the fact that Hinduism is characterized by the theme of ‘unity 
in diversity’ which has made it possible to bring together diverse schools 
of philosophy, sects, and social castes within a single socio-religious 
frame-work. The spirit of toleration resulting from this central theme 
and the absence of a single rigid cult have enabled the Santal to adopt 
many Hindu customs without losing their identity as a people. It may 
be noted here that there has never been any conscious attempt, on the 
part of the Hindus, to convert the Santal. Hinduization of the latter 
has thus proceeded unintentionally and imperceptibly. 

The impact of Hindu landlords, money-lenders and traders on the 
economic life of the Santal in recent times has been more conscious. 
This impact cannot be judged as a separate phenomenon, however, but 
must be related to the policy and action of the British Government. 
Thus it has been shown how the joint impact -of government officials 
and Hindu landlords, money-lenders and traders led to thb economic 
impoverishment of the Santal, and to the rebellion of 1855. 

How the British Government has impinged on Santal culture will be 
brieflv discussed here. The Permanent Zamindari Settlement, 1 first 
enacted by the East India Company in 1790, was followed by the Per¬ 
manent Land Settlement Act of 1793. This Act was so called because 
it fixed the amount of land revenue to be paid to the Government by a 
class of landlords ( zamindar ) that was thus created. In taking this 
action, the British applied English legal conceptions, and transformed 
the traditional land system of India, according to which land belonged 
to the village community and the cultivating peasants in common, and 
whereby the king had only the right to one-sixth to one-twelfth of the 
produce. After the passage of this Act, however, the village commu¬ 
nities of India, including those of the Santal, were deprived of the owner¬ 
ship of their land. From owners of land, the Santal thus became rent¬ 
paying tenants of the newly created landlords, and the traditional system 
of communal ownership of land was replaced by individual ownership. 

Besides altering the land system, this Act had other effects. The 
new landlords were interested in bringing more land under cultivation, 
and settling rent-paying peasant tenants, since any rent they would 
collect over and above the permanently fixed land revenue to be paid 

1 See Chapter II, p. 23. 



to the Government would be theirs. Efforts were therefore made to 
reclaim land by clearing forests, as a result of which the available amount 
bf game and other forest products used by the Santal were reduced. 

The deprivations suffered as a result of the depletion of forests in 
the Santal Parganas were reinforced by the government policy of pro¬ 
claiming thickly forested areas as reservations. The net result of these 
two forces was to reduce the role played by collecting and hunting in 
Santal economy. Not only was the supply of forest products and game 
decreased, but the Santal were no longer as free to make use of the avail¬ 
able supply. They were now dependent on landlords and the Govern¬ 
ment for access to the remaining forests. 

The Santal were likewise cut off from the wood they used to build 
their houses. Since they were not in an economic position that would 
enable them to buy wood from alien timber-dealers, they were forced to 
adopt the method of constructing houses with sun-dried mud walls, 
used by the neighbouring Hindus. The supply of wild sauri grass (Hete- 
ropogon Contortus It & S), used for thatching roofs, also became res¬ 
tricted for the same reasons ; and this fact led the Santal to borrow 
the Hindu method of employing paddy straw for thatching. 

To increase revenue the Government prohibited the private manu¬ 
facture of rice-beer and the native liquor, and restricted their manu¬ 
facture and sale to those licensed by the Government. These licenses 
are periodically awarded to the highest bidder in public auction. This 
policy has resulted in a good annual revenue for the Government, and a 
good profit for the liquor dealers, who are usually Hindus. But the 
Santal, who now have to buy their drinks in licensed liquor shops in 
the form of pocai , a Hindu name for rice-beer, find the sums they 
spend a heavy drain on their meagre economic resources. Moreover, 
the quality of pocai is not as good as their home-brewed handi. The 
Santal sometimes try to manufacture their own handi and liquor, but 
the Government has appointed excise inspectors to discover illicit stills. 
When such cases are discovered, those involved are arrested, prosecuted 
on a charge of the illegal manufacture of liquor, and fined. Imprison¬ 
ment follows failure to pay fines. 

The right assumed by the Government to appoint and dismiss village 
headmen and the headmen of village-groups has already been mentioned . 1 
Formerly this headman, together with other officials of the village council, 
was responsible for the general welfare of the community, and the solving 
of any problem that might arise within it according to traditional rules. 

l See Chapter II, p. 31. 



Under the present system of administration, however, a non-Santa 1 
may occasionally be appointed as the headman of a Santal village. 
As the presence of the monjhi is indispensable in the social and religious 
festivals of a Santal village community, and as an alien cannot take 
part in them, in such cases a new type of headman, called handi 
mdnjhi, is elected for participation in ceremonial matters. Only a 
Santal can act as a handi mdnjhi. 

The chief of a group of villages, appointed by the Government, is 
in charge of an administrative unit, or revenue division. His principal 
function is to ensure the punctual payment of revenue to the Government 
by village heads under his jurisdiction. He also acts as sub-inspector 
of police. In earlier times, he received a commission of 2 per cent on 
the total collection of the local headmen under him. Since 1924-25, 
however, his remuneration has increased, and now his commissions 
are calculated at the following rates : 

5 p.c. for the first Rs. 2000 
4 p.c. for the second Rs. 2000 
3 p.c. for the third Rs. 2000 
and 2 p.c. for all further amounts. 1 

The action of the Government in assuming the right to appoint and 
dismiss these two classes of officials had two important consequences. 
It, first of all, changed the character of Santal political organization, 
which traditionally had a democratic basis. Formerly, all the pahcdyat 
officials were elected by and responsible to the village community. 
Similarly, the pargana or the headman of a group of villages was elected 
by and responsible to the village councils under his jurisdiction. The 
appointment of the village and pargana heads by the Government now 
introduced an element of irresponsibility in Santal political organization. 
The very fact that the status of these officials today rests, not on the 
consent of the villagers, but on controls outside the control of those 
they rule, has thus fundamentally altered the democratic basis of Santal 
political structure. Secondly, a new class consisting of these officials 
was created. The prosperity and prestige of this class derived from 
the support of the Government, and thus their material interests were 
linked up with those of the latter. The Government could therefore 
depend on them for collecting revenue, and maintaining the new legal 
and political procedures and institutions it has introduced. 

*L. S. S. O’Malley —Santal Parganas, pp. 132*4. 



Government legislation also affected the institutions of divination 
and witchcraft. As only a jan guruj the more powerful of the two 
types of Santal diviners, can pronounce a woman a doer of witchcraft, 
and as these pronouncements had led to the persecution and expulsion 
from society of many Santal women on charges of secretly practising 
witchcraft, the Government has banned the profession. The penalty 
for violation of this regulation is imprisonment. Thus many diviners 
(jan guru) have been forced to forsake their profession, and new recruits 
are rare. Some still practise their craft in secrecy, something that is 
possible because no special - machinery was set up for preventing them 
from doing this. 

The jurisdiction of the Indian Penal Code, enacted by the British 
Government, was extended to include cases of murder of suspected 
practitioners of witchcraft by the surviving relatives of a person believed 
to have been killed through that agency. Such cases thus came to 
be tried in British courts of law under a charge of homicide. As a result 
such murders have become less common than before ; when they do 
occur much secrecy surrounds them, in contrast to the earlier practice of 
unconcealed murders. 

In addition to the above consequences of British legislation, there 
were also others which may be said to represent the indirect effects 
of the impact of the British Government on Santal life. The establish¬ 
ment of British legal and political control in Santal territory tended 
to weaken the authority of the village community and council over 
individual members. The very fact that a Santal, dissatisfied with 
the decision of his village council, could now take his case to alien 
officials and courts worked as a disturbing factor in Santal socio-political 
life. Moreover, the heads of communities and village-groups were 
quite willing to take the help of the alien officials and courts, whenever it 
was necessary to maintain their interests. 

Another indirect effect of the impact of British Government was 
the creation of a vast body of landless labourers, and the introduction 
of the system of working for wages. Two forces combined to produce 
this result. One was the economic impoverishment of the Santal, 
which culminated in the rebellion of 1855 ; and the other was the growth 
of plantations, mines, and factories, giving rise to a great demand for 
free labour. We have seen how the destitution, prevailing in the pre 
and post-rebellion period, facilitated a large scale recruitment of the 
Santal for railway construction and tea plantations. Later, the operation 

1 See Chapter III, p. 51. 



of tlie same economic forces compelled the Santal to seek jobs in coal 
mines, mica mines, rice mills, and steel factories. It may be noted 
here that the same process holds true of the other aboriginal tribes of 
India, e.g., the Munda, Ho, Kandh, etc. 

The adoption of the system of working for wages in localities far 
removed from the homes of the workers did not help the Santal to solve 
the urgent economic problem of subsistence and securing a reasonable 
standard of living. The conditions of'work and wages in plantations,, 
mines and factories were by no means satisfactory. Wages were too- 
low to allow the workers to gain even bare subsistence. The case 
of the Santal coal-miners of Asansol in western Bengal, visited in March, 
1933, may be mentioned here by way of illustrating the point. 

The average income of a person was only six annas or twelve cents 
for a working day of ten hours. Of this, some three annas or six cents 
were spent daily on tari , i.e., toddy or palm wine. On visiting a toddy 
shop one evening, about a hundred Santal coal workers were found 
drinking and singing. One of them, not yet drunk, explained that they 
had to spend half of their daily income in drinking a bowl of tari in order 
to get rid of “the filthy coal dust which filled their inside up to the neck 
when they came out of the coal pit after the day’s hard work ; for it 
was impossible to remove this filth with plain water.” When they 
would have no money left for food, they would borrow from money 
lenders, who were either kabuliwalas (Pashto-speaking people from 
the north-west) or, sometimes, officers of the mines, at a high rate of 
interest (above 75 per cent a year). Once they borrowed money at this 
rate, they could obviously never repay it. They thus were destined to 
sink deeper and deeper into debt, since any interest is deducted from 
their wages before they are paid, and they then must borrow anew 
if they are to have money with which to buy food. Their only escape 
from this indebtedness was thus either death or by running away. Study 
of the situation of the Santal coal and mica-mine workers of Giridi 
in Bihar in August, 1944, showed similar conditions. 

The impact of organized Christian missionary activity on the Santal 
of Santal Parganas may be dated from 1860 when the Church Missionary 
Society of England began work among them. Other missions soon 
followed. A Scandinavian mission initiated work under the name 
“ Indian Home Mission ” in 1867. The Scotch Free Church began work in 
the south-western part of the district in 1870. Despite the fact that 
contact with Christianity took place during a period when the Santal 
were economically destitute, faced with starvation and overcome by the 


0 $ 

hopelessness of their situation, their conversibn was minimal. Thus 
in 1901, the number of Christian Santal was 8,931 ; by 1931 the number 
had increased to 24,033. This, however, was only about one per cent 
of the total Santal population of 2,508,739. 

Though the impact of Christian missionaries has not been felt to any 
great extent by the majority of the Santal, it has influenced the life of 
the Christians in various non-religious aspects. Thus missionaries 
have forbidden the Christian Santal to drink rice-beer, and have taught 
them not to participate in certain social dances. They consider the 
drinking of rice-beer as degrading, and the dances as obscene. Tradi¬ 
tionally, the Santal do not judge their dances in the light of morality. 
They accept them as a part and parcel of their social and religious life. 
But the insistence of the missionaries on the obscene character of these 
dances has infused in the Christian Santal a sense of immorality to such 
an extent that they “ themselves say that they feel ashamed when they 
hear the dancing drum.” 1 The Christian Santal also have learned to 
bury their dead, instead of cremating them. 

Christian missionaries reduced Santal language into writing, and 
established a number of schools for spreading literacy among the Santal. 
The first Santali grammar, under the name Introduction to the Santal 
Language , was published in 1852, by J. Phillips who worked in the 
southern parts of Santal territory. He also published a number of 
tracts in Santali. Later Skrefsrud, Borresen, Bodding, and Campbell 
contributed considerably to the reduction of Santali to writing. The 
Roman script, with some modifications, has now been established as 
the script of Santali. It is in this script that a Santali newspaper named 
Lera Hor (literally, “a relative”) is being published by the Santal 
Mission of the Northern Churches situated at Benagoria, Santal Parganas. 

Hirduism, the British Government, and Christianity, which have 
been impinging on Santal culture in the Santal Parganas, have also 
affected the Santal of Birbhum. But so far as the Santal of Kuotola 
and the three adjoining villages 2 in Birbhum, which are the focus of this 
study, are concerned,-two factors have entered that make for differences 
in the situation there. In the first place, influence of Christianity has 
not been felt here as it has elsewhere, because this area is an old seat of 
Hindu culture, and because there are no mission organizations nearby. 
Then, too, the educational institutes of Santiniketan and Srlniketan, 
between which these villages are situated, have been instrumental in 

*P. 0. Bodding—“Notes on the Santals ”, p. 107. 

2 See Chapter V, p. 66. 



introducing certain changes in the life of these pdopie not found else¬ 
where in Santal territory. 

Santiniketan and Sriniketan lie in the district of Blrbhum about 
100 miles north-west of Calcutta, some 2 miles west of Bolpur, a railway 
station on the East Indian Railway Loop Line 1 . Srlniketan is about 
a mile and a half south-west of Santiniketan which was first established 
in about 1863 by Maharsi Devendranath Thakur, an outstanding leader 
•of the nineteenth century socio-religious movement in Bengal, known 
as Brahma-Santaj . 

Though Santiniketan (literally, “ abode of peace ”) was originally 
meant to be a quiet retreat for devotees who sought meditation, Maliar- 
•si’s son, Rabindranath Thakur (known in the world as Tagore), trans¬ 
formed it, in 1901, into a new kind of school, in accordance with the 
tapovana or “ forest-school ” ideal of ancient India, where students, 
living far aw T ay from noisy centers of worldly affairs, were to learn dis¬ 
cipline, plain living, and concentration on thinking. By 1918 Rabin¬ 
dranath conceived of Santiniketan as a cultural center for the whole of 
India, transcending sectarian and provincial limits. It was to be a 
•center where education was to achieve a synthesis of the diverse cultures 
of India, and at the same time be broadened by an international outlook. 
Students began to come from all parts of India. 

In 1918 Rabindranath thought of establishing a Visva-Bhdrati , a 
new kind of University, which -would be a center of world culture, pro¬ 
mote independent thought, and bridge the gulf between education and 
life. Such a University would not only teach the arts and sciences,* 
but would also apply them in the surrounding countryside, thereby 
building up an organic link between it and the life of the people. The 
foundations of Visva-Bhdrati were laid at Santiniketan on December 22, 
1918, but work actually started on July 3, 1919. Santiniketan school 
became a part of Visva-Bhdrati. Professors Winternitz, Sylvan Levy 
and many other scholars came as visiting lecturers. Eew departments 
including those of music, arts and dance were opened. The study of 
Chinese and Tibetan languages was introduced in 1921. 

The applied side of Visva-Bhdrati, intended to combine knowledge 
and active service, found expression in Sriniketan (literally, “ abode of 
beauty and prosperity”), which was established on February 6, 1922. 
It was also known as the Institute of Rural Reconstruction. Today 
Santiniketan and Sriniketan are both integral parts of a greater scheme, 
VUva-Bharati (literally, “a world University”). 

1 From April 14, 1952, it is called Eastern Railway. 



The relation between &dntiniketan and Sriniketan on the one hand,, 
and the Santal villages on the other, has been characterized by a policy 
of direction without dominance. For the success of their activities- 
among the Santal, fiantiniketan and Sriniketan have to depend on their 
prestige and the good-will created by proofs of their sincere desire to- 
better the socio-economic conditions of the surrounding people. The 
fact that Visva-BJidrati has recently purchased the lands in and around 
the Santal villages 1 has introduced a new element in this relationship. 
As the Santal of Kuotola and other communities have now come to be 
tenants of Visva-Bharati, the latter is in a position to put direct or in¬ 
direct pressure on the former, in order to force some of their ideas on 
the villagers. 

Many traits of Santal culture have been retained intact, despite- 
the impinging forces that have influenced their life. Some new elements- 
have been syncretized with old ones, while old traits have been reinter¬ 
preted to facilitate the acceptance of new ones. Many entirely new 
traits, which do not allow of syncretization and reinterpretation, have,, 
howmver, entered Santal life. More important is the growth of certain, 
positive movements among the Santal in reaction to these impinging, 

The failure of the rebellion of 1855 did not mean the end of Santa! 
reaction, but only the beginning of a new consciousness which has been, 
manifested in various movements. The first of these is known as the 
Kharwar or Kherwar movement which developed in the nineteenth, 
century in a period of great economic suffering. This movement may 
be said to have two aspects, political and socio-religious. Politically 
it has resisted the imposition and enhancement of rent, and conceived, 
of the idea of driving away the British and other aliens from Santal 
territory, thus restoring the period when the Santal were not compelled, 
to pay rent, but were masters of their country. The socio-religious 
aspect of the movement has introduced a number of reforms tending 
towards Hinduization. 

It is not known exactly when the movement originated, but that its 
political aspect played a great role in the rebellion of 1855 is undoubted. 
It came into prominence again in 1871 under the leadership of a Santal 
Darned Bhagrit. He introduced the worship of the Hindu deity Rama 
finder the name Ram Cando . The adoption of the worship of Ram 
Cando was followed by the adoption of other Hindu practices, as 

1 See Chapter V, p. 74. 



for example, avoidance of the meat of fowls, pigs and carrion, 
•daily ablations, daily showing of a lamp by women at dusk to the 
four corners of the house, emphasis on physical and mental clean¬ 
liness, kindness to animals as well as humans, etc. The idea under¬ 
lying these practices is that by following them the Santal would be puri¬ 
fied from all sins, and thus rid themselves of the sufferings that result 
from incurring the displeasure of God. This movement has been periodi¬ 
cally revived, and its following has increased after the recurring disasters 
of famine and epidemic. 

The followers of the Kharwar movement, as their number increased, 
gradually split into three sects, babaji or babajiu> sapai , and sa?nra, 
under the guidance of different leaders. Originally, these sects observed 
the same practices. But in course of time individual leaders introduced 
innovations in accordance with their own ideas. Todav these sects 
differ in certain details, but the common binding factor remains the wor¬ 
ship of Ram Cando. 1 

The Kharwar sects have accelerated the acculturation of the Santal 
towards Hinduism. Some of the followers of this movement have begun 
to wear janeo or sula , a sacred thread 2 that marks members of the Brali- 
mana and Ksatriya castes. The janeo-dhari Santal, that is those who 
wear janeo , also insist on vegetarianism like the Hindus of Bihar, and 
regard themselves as socially superior to those who do not wear sula. 
As a result, a strong cleavage is separating the two groups. The janeo- 
dhari Santal are reluctant to intermarry or have social intercourse with 
the non -janeo-dhari Santal. Thus a new Hindu caste has been emerging 
from among the Santal. 

In the nineteenth century Kliarwar movement, emphasis was laid 
more on the socio-religious aspect than on the political ; since the adop¬ 
tion of the socio-religious practices of the more fortunately placed majo¬ 
rity community, the Hindus, was regarded as a means of improving the 
status of the people. But during the first quarter and a half of the 
twentieth century, the character of Santal reaction to the impinging 
forces has been changing, and the Kharwar movement has been on the 
decline. This change in the character of Santal reaction is marked by 
a shift in the emphasis from the socio-religious to the political aspect, 
together with an increasing reliance on the forces inherent in their own 
community and culture, rather than on the adoption of alien socio¬ 
religious practices. 

X L. S. S. O’Malley —Santal Pargunas, pp. 175* *82. 

*See Chapter II, p. 20, footnote. 



This new political consciousness has been the result of the growth 
of the All-India national independence movement. As this movement 
has spread, it has not only given rise to the growth of a general national 
consciousness embracing the whole of India, but it has also fostered a 
sense of specific nationalism within the different linguistic and cultural 
groups of the country. A large-scale example of the second type of deve¬ 
lopment is seen in the recent growth of the Pakistan movement among 
the Moslems, though it has been complicated by the religious factor. 1 
A more typical case of the second type of development is found in the 
growth of the Adivasi movement which expresses the aspirations of 
the aboriginal inhabitants. 

The new political consciousness of the Santal has been manifested 
in two main directions in accordance with their position in relation to 
other social groups. In the district of Santal Parganas, where the Santal 
are numerically strong and live in compact groups, the Adivasi move¬ 
ment has shown a rapid development since about 1938. The main 
demands of this Adivasi movement include the establishment of a sepa¬ 
rate province for the aboriginal tribes of Chota Nagpur, within the 
framewoTk of the Government of India, the representation of the abori¬ 
ginal tribes in the provincial cabinet of Bihar by at least one educated 
aboriginal, and the introduction of Santali and other aboriginal languages 
as the media of instruction in schools. This movement has received the 
co-operation of a number of Hindus interested in the improvement of 
the socio-economic conditions of the minority groups. 

In the northern districts of Bengal, where the Santal live in isolated 
colonies in the midst of Hindu and Mohammedan peasants, the new 
political consciousness of the Santal is finding expression in the growth 
of peasants’ unions, to carry on the fight against increasing rents, usury, 
and other kinds of extortion by landlords and money-lenders. The 
initiative for organizing the Santal into peasants’ unions came from 
Hindu and Mohammedan peasant leaders. In the peasant movement, 
the Santal do not work in isolation, but jointly with Hindu and Moham¬ 
medan cultivators. Through these unions, the Santal of this locality 
are coming into contact not only with other peasants of northern Bengal, 
but also with the peasantry of the entire province, since the All-Bengal 
Peasants’ Union forms the connecting link between the peasant move¬ 
ments of all the districts and sub-divisions within the province. 


Ht should be noted here that Pakistan has been set up as a separate State since 
August 14, 1947. 



These unions are also taking an active interest in political elections, 
fox the Provincial Legislative Assembly. In the elections, held in the- 
beginning of 1946, one Hindu peasant who was a well-known leader im 
organizing peasants’ unions in northern Bengal, stood as a candidate.. 
Santal and other peasants jointly organized meetings and demonstra¬ 
tions in support of their chosen leader as against a rival candidate 
who represented the landlords and money-lenders. The results of the- 
election were in favour of the union leader who was returned to the 
Bengal Legislative Assembly. 

The effects of the growth of this new economico-political movement 
on Santal culture are not yet clear. But it may be inferred that increas¬ 
ing economic and political unity between the Santal and the Hindu 
peasants in northern Bengal will tend towards the gradual assimilation, 
of the former with the latter. 


The Santal of Birbhum,: Material Culture and Economic Life 

The Santal of the four villages in the south-eastern portion of the 
district of Birbhum, described in this and the two following chapters, 
originally came from Santal Parganas. The geographical features of 
this new environment were somewhat different from the old, and have 
thus in a measure affected Santal cultural change in this area. A brief 
summary of these features will be given here. 

Birbhum is located east of the Santal Parganas, and covers an area 
of 1,752 square miles. It is roughly triangular in shape, the apex being 
in the north near the point where the Rajmahal Range and the river 
Ganga diverge from each other, the hills bending southwestward and 
the river taking a southeasterly course. The western boundary of the 
district follows the line of the hills of the Rajmahal Range; while the 
eastern boundary runs at a distance of from ten to fifteen miles from the 
west bank of the Ganga. The base of the triangle is formed by the 
river Aiav. 

Topographically, Birbhum is characterized by a succession of undula¬ 
tions, their general trend being from north-west to south-east. Toward 
the western boundary these undulations rise into high, forest-covered 
ridges, while toward the east and south-east they merge into the alluvial 
plains of the Ganga basin. 

The flora and fauna of the western parts of Birbhum are very much 
like those of the Santal Parganas. But the south-eastern parts of the 
district are open, and plants and animals are scarce because of the 
gravelly condition of the soil. Three seasons can be clearly distinguished 
in this region. The summer lasts from about the middle of March to 
the middle of June, the rainy season from the middle of June to the 
middle of October, and the winter from the middle of October to the 
middle of March. The average rainfall of the district is 46-84 inches, 
about 11 inches less than that in the Santal Parganas. 1 

According to the census of 1931, the total population of Birbhum is 
947,554, of which there are 636,425 Hindus, 252,908 Moslems, 55,274 
tribal Santal, 636 Christian, 19 Buddhists, and a few other minority 
groups. The Santal population is 64,079 including 8,559 Hindu and 
246 Christian Santal. Thus the Santal constitute about 7 per cent of 
the total population of the district. The Expression “ tribal Santal ” 

1 L. S. S. O’Malley— Birbhum, Chapter 1. 





has been used here to refer to those Santal who still retain their tribal 
organization, and have not adopted any other religion. 1 

The movement of the Santal to the district of Birbhum from the area 
of the Santal Parganas started after the enactment of the Permanent 
Land Settlement Act of 1793. But the stream of migration became 
accelerated after the rebellion of 1855. In 1872 there were only 6,954 
Santal in Birbhum. The number rose to 47,221 in 1901, and 64,079 in 
1931. The Santal villages in Birbhum are all situated in the undulating 
country between the hills of the Santal Parganas to the west and the 
alluvial plains on the east. Unlike the surrounding Bengali peasants, 
the Santal choose the upper parts of the undulations for their village 

— 2 — 

The village of Kuotola, where most of the data in this and the follow, 
ing chapters were obtained, is situated on a danga 2 about half way between 
Santiniketan and Srlniketan. Within a Tadius of half a mile from 
Kuotola there are three other Santal villages, Kaligonjo, Balipara* and 
Baganpara. These are the names by which these four villages are 
known to the surrounding people, and which the Santal use while speak¬ 
ing to aliens. Among themselves, however, they use their own Santali 
names for these villages : 

Roseola for Kuotola 
Bandhghutu for Kaligonjo 
Sodo^ola for Balipara 
Bagantola for Baganpaya 

Each village, like those in the Santal Parganas, has a long street 
with houses, one deep, on either side. Each house has a backyard where 
vegetables are cultivated. The street of Kuotola runs east and west 
with 14 houses on the north and 12 on the south side. The houses are 
all detached, so that there is some space between one house and the 
next. To the north-west of the village, on an adjoining danga , is a 
small school-house. At the extreme eastern end of the village is an 
empty house, belonging to Santiniketan, where a middle class Bengali 
family, interested in social service work, lived for a time. Of the 
remaining 25 houses, 23 are occupied by the Santal, and two by Hindus, 
one a Ghatwal, and one a Karmakar family. The traditional occupation 

1 Census Report of India, 1931, Vol. V, Pts. I & II. 

8 The word tfariga means an open, dry, highland unsuitable for rice cultivation. 



of the Ghatwal, which this family follows, is to make dry food 
called cira and muri from unhusked and husked rice respectively 
The Karmakar household are blacksmiths. The Ghatwal family came 
ra# in the Santal Parganas about 1920, and settled here. 
The Karmakar family was brought in by the Santal about 1932. 

Kuotola dates to about 1865, when a few immigrant Santal families 
from the Santal Parganas settled here. The original families were 
strengthened by subsequent migrations, which brought settlers as late 
■as 1925. The total Santal population of the village, in August, 1945, 
was 119 including 62 men and 57 women. The Ghatwal family had 4, 
and the Karmakar family 5 members, giving the village a total popula¬ 
tion of 128, 66 men and 62 women. 

The houses consist of one to three huts according to the economic 
position of the owners. Each house has a compound, more or less 
square, the huts being built on the sides, and has a shed for cattle, pig3 
and fowls. Dovecots are to be found in some houses. The roof of 
the huts has two sides with gables, as in the traditional pattern. The 
walls are made of mud, like those in the houses of Bengali peasants in 
this region, bamboo is used for rafters, posts and roofs, and the thatching 
is the straw of rice plants. Every house has a bhitar or family altar in a 
corner of the principal hut. Ordinarily there are no windows, though 
one house, belonging to the village priest, has three windows with rough 
wooden frames. It was found on enquiry that this man’s father spent 
most of his life in the employment of Santiniketan and Sriniketan, 
where every house has numerous windows. This innovation, however, 
has not yet been accepted by the other villagers. 

All the houses, except one, are without decoration. On the walls of this 
house are a few floral designs in black, yellow and pink, while the earthen 
pillars of the verandah are serrated. These decorations were introduced 
by the wife and daughter of the owner. The wife comes from a village 
about five or six miles away, where the houses have serrated pillars of 
this kind. The knowledge of floral decorations, however, came from 
the observation by her and her daughter of the house of the Ghatwal 
at the eastern end of Kuotola. This man had a father’s sister’s son, 
who used to live with him and work at the Institute of Art at Santinike- 
tan, where he learned something about painting by observing the students 
at work, and painted his own house in the village. 

The furniture in the houses usually consists of bedsteads made of 
bamboo and rope, mats, wooden seats and benches, umbrellas of bamboo 
and date palm leaves, kerosine lamps and lanterns, storage vessels of 



earth and basketry, wooden pestles, milling stones, stone mortar and 
pestles, buckets and winnowing fans. In one house, that having windows}' 
an old iron bedstead is also to be found. Some houses naturally do not. 
possess all the items mentioned above. But when they are lacking,, 
such articles as mortar and pestles for pounding rice can be borrowed 
from neighbours. 

Domestic utensils are made of earthenware, bell-metal, brass, iron,, 
aluminium and enamel. A few plates, dishes and vessels made of these 
materials are to be found in every house. Iron ladles are very common. 
Plates of aluminium and enamel are found in only a few houses. All 
the above are purchased from the nearby Bolpur market. Plates and 
cups of leaves are rarely seen. This is due to the fact that sal trees, 
leaves of which are used in making plates and cups in the Santal Parganas,. 
are scarce in this region ; and also because utensils made of metal are 
available in the neighbouring market. 

Men customarily wear a piece of cotton cloth, 5 cubits 1 long and 30 
inches wide. Women wear longer and wider pieces of cloth of the same 
material. Cotton sarees 2 , about 10 cubits by 36 inches, are becoming 
very popular among Santal women. But unlike Bengali women, they 
wear them without any veil over their heads. In the winter a thick' 
cotton cloth is used as a wrapper. These clothes are made by Hindu 
and Mohammedan weavers, whose products are sold in nearby markets. 
Mill-made cloths are, however, also being introduced. One young man 
of another village, who works in the carpentry section of Sriniketan,. 
has started wearing khaki shorts and shirts purchased from the Bolpur 

Santal women are fond of adorning themselves with flowers. The 
beauty of dark-skinned Santal girls, wearing red and white flowers, has 
found expression in a number of Bengali poems. The use of cow-tail 
hairs by women in tying their coiffures has been replaced by black 
ribbons purchased from visiting peddlers. The most common women’s 
ornaments are bracelets, ear-rings, and nose-rings, made of zinc, lead, 
glass, silver and gold. The use of gold and silver for ornaments is,, 
however, rare. These ornaments are purchased from the market. 
Men no longer wear their hair long, but cut short. 

The Santal of Kuotola usually have two meals a day, one hot and 
one cold. The cold meal consists of rice left overnight and soaked in 

1 A ‘ cubit ’ is tho distance between the elbow and the tip of the middle finger. 

2 A saree is a long piece of cloth, made of cotton or silk, with broad, coloured 
orders, worn by Bengali women. 



water. Only a few persons can afford a third meal. Even in families 
who eat twice a day, however, every attempt is made to give children 
three meals. Rice is the staple food. With it either a little vegetable 
or dal , a thin soup made of legumes like lentils, is eaten. It is not often 
that these people can have both vegetables and dal with rice. Meat 
and fish are eaten only occasionally, since the economic position of the 
Kuotola villagers is not such as to enable them to buy these foods. They 
therefore have to depend on what game they can hunt for meat, and on 
what fish they can catch. In this open country with few rivers, how¬ 
ever, game and fish are scarce. Fowls, pigs, and goats are killed and 
-eaten only at festivals. Non-poisonous snakes are baked and eaten by 
children and adolescents, but adults consider them unclean, and do not 
eat them. Beef is not eaten, because of Hindu influence. 

The village is supplied with drinking water by a well that was dug 
at the instance of the District Board (whose function is to look after 
the sanitary and other interests of the district) on the southern edge of 
the village. Water is drawn from the well with a bucket and a piece of 
rope. Formerly, every household used to brew its own rice-beer. But 
since, as we have seen, the Government prohibited its manufacture 
except for a few days in the year on the occasion of the greatest Santal 
festival, for the rest of the year our villagers, like other Santal, are 
compelled to buy a kind of rice-beer manufactured by Hindu liquor- 
dealers who have obtained a license from the Government. Santal 
women do not drink liquor purchased at the shop, and have to be content 
with what fiandi they can produce at home during the festival and 
illegally at other times. 

Though the Santal have cows, they do not ordinarily drink milk. 
This aversion for milk is undergoing a change, however. Some of the 
Santal who are engaged in domestic service for the employees of Santi- 
niketan and Silniketan are learning to drink milk with their tea. Tea¬ 
drinking has become very popular among the Bengali middle class, and 
the servants of these people are also taking to this habit. Four Santal 
families at Kuotola now drink tea with milk and sugar. There is one 
house where children are given milk by itself, whenever available. The 
owner of this house explained that his children were weak and suffered 
from chronic illness. It was suggested by certain Hindus that the 
drinking of milk might cure them. He gave the idea a trial, his children 
improved in health, and since then he ha3 kept up the practice in so far 
as his ecohomic position permits. Though the trait of drinking milk, 
with or without tea, has been borrowed, yet the Santal have not learned 



how to milk cows. They buy milk from Hindu goalas , the traditional 

The habit of chewing dry tobacco leaves mixed with lime is common 
among the Santal of both sexes. Tobacco leaves are purchased at the 
market or from visiting peddlers, whereas lime is manufactured by the 
Santal themselves. 

— 3 — 

The principal economic activities of the Santal of Kuotola and 
adjoining villages are agriculture, hunting, fishing, rearing of domesticated 
animals, day-labouring, and performing domestic service. Agriculture is- 
the chief source of livelihood, the others being subsidiary ; but the 
majority of the people engage in all the first five activities. There are 
two families at Kuotola who have no land, and maintain themselves by 
hiring out as day-labourers. Due to a paucity of forests and rivers, 
hunting and fishing have lost their economic importance, and there 
is no scope for collecting as.a means of subsistence. Domestic service* 
as a means of livelihood is a recent innovation. 

The dahga or the elevated parts of this region have a gravelly soil, 
which is unsuitable for cultivation. There are alluvial patches in the 
depressions, and it is there that cultivation is carried on. Many Santal 
of Kuotola have their fields in the depressions immediately south of 
their village. Some of them go about two or three miles to the south 
to cultivate the more fertile low-lands. Such fertile low-lands are not 
generally available to the Santal, however, for they are already 
occupied by the Bengali peasants, Mohammedan as well as Hindu. 

The fields are small, and are marked off from one another with raised 
earthen boundaries about six inches high. The staple crop is rice. In 
the dry upland, plots of land at the back of Santal houses, varying in 
size from J to 2 bighas (i.e., £ to § acre), are planted in jondra, or Indian 
com, while egg-plants, tomatoes, and sometimes, potatoes are also grown 
there. The cultivation of tomatoes and potatoes was introduced by 
the same man who brought windows and iron bedsteads to these people, 
the father of the present (1945) village priest of Kuotola, who had been 
a worker in the fields of the establishment of Sriniketan. This has been 
taken up, however, only by but a few other families than that of the 

The method of cultivation is like that found among the neighbouring 
Hindu and Mohammedan peasants. The simple agricultural imple¬ 
ments consist of ploughs, harrows, spades, and sickles. The plough is 


71 of wood with an iron ploughshare, harrow of bamboo. Spades 
have bamboo shafts and iron blades. The wood and bamboo out of 
which these agricultural implements are made is obtained from the tree^ 
and bamboo-clusters found in their village. The people thus have to 
buy only their iron, which is moulded into ploughshares and blades by 
the village blacksmith. The only manure known at Kuotola is cowdung 
and ashes. Cowdung is used in the rice fields, and ashes in the home¬ 
stead lands. As a result of the efforts of Sriniketan, small pits of 
compost manure, consisting of rotten leaves and earth, are to be found 
in three houses. 

The Santal agricultural season, which fluctuates with the coming of 
the rains, usually lasts from the middle of June to the end of December. 
Rain water is stored in the rice fields, which have raised earthen 
boundaries. The fields being at different levels, any overflow of water 
in one field can be directed into another through narrow channels cut 
into these boundaries. 

Generally, seed rice is sown broadcast first in one or two small plots 
of land belonging to the villagers. About August the seedlings are 
uprooted and transplanted in other fields. The Santal, with lands only 
in the upper depressions near the village, get one crop a year. Those 
who also have fields in the distant low-lands get a second crop. 

As we have seen, the existing system of land tenure originated from 
the Permanent Land Settlement Act of 1793. The zamindars or land¬ 
lords created under that Act did not cultivate land themselves, but 
rented large plots to intermediaries. Those who pay rent direct to the 
zamindars are known as taluqdars. These intermediaries, in turn, 
sublet their lands to other intermediaries. In this way subtenures of 
various degrees, known by different names, such as dar-patni (second- 
holder), se-patni (third-holder), caharam-patni (fourth-holder), etc., 
have come into existence. In some cases there are as many as fifty 
intermediaries between the zamindar and the actual cultivator. The 
amount of rent for subtenures is not fixed, and varies with the position 
and fertility of the land. 

Through this tenure system, many zamindars obtain substantial 
income. It is difficult to obtain accurate figures as to these incomes, 
since the necessary data are lacking, but the reputed income of the 
largest landlord of Bengal, the Maharaja of Burdwan (a district to the 
immediate south of Birbhum) is said to be Rs. 12,00,000 or about 
$480,000. Most of the zamindars today are absentee landlords, spending 



their time in the large centers, while their employees in the countryside 
collect their rents. The actual cultivator thus must bear the burden of 
an entire* group of non-productive beneficiaries of his labour. The 
Santal, along with other cultivators, are thus reduced to extreme poverty. 

When the Santal first came to Blrbhum, they obtained land under a 
system called krisani , according to which the individual was provided 
with land, seed, plough and oxen, giving his labour in return. Two-thirds 
of the produce go to the owner of the land, and but one-third to the 
cultivator. As the number of krisans increased, the terms became more 
stringent; and in many areas the krisdn had to provide the plough and 
oxen. 1 

The Santal of Kuotola pay annual rent to the zamindar of Surul 
for not too fertile danga land of the locality, in the amount of about 
Bs. per bigha, or $T80 per acre per year. Some of these Santal 
used to migrate annually from the Santal Parganas to work as agricul¬ 
tural labourers during the harvest season, before they rented land for 
cultivation and settled down in Blrbhum. The land was poor, yielding 
only one crop a year. In years of drought, the harvest was bad, not 
enough to see them through till the next harvest. They therefore were 
compelled to borrow money from the zamindar of Surul or other Hindu 
money-lenders at annual rates of interest varying from 50 to 75 per cent. 
Once a debtor, a man could never repay the money, since he never could 
raise enough surplus to meet the demands of rent, interest, and 
subsistence. Bent and interest would fall into arrears, until the money¬ 
lender or landlord or both would institute legal proceedings, and the 
lands would be put on sale for the realization of rent and interest. 
Through this process the Santal, like other peasants of India, have been 
converted into landless labourers. 

Of the 23 Santal families of Kuotola only 5 families still ^possess 
their own lands, the total size of individual holdings varying from 3 to 
12 bighas (i.e., 1 to 4 acres). With the exception of two families who 
have taken to day-labouring as their sole means of subsistence, all the 
remaining ones are share-croppers. Even those five families who have 
their own lands have to do share-cropping, for their individual holdings 
are too small to support them. 

The neighbouring Hindus, including some employees of Santiniketan 
and Srlniketan, have tried to increase their holdings by availing them¬ 
selves of the opportunity of buying Santal lands in public auctions at 

1 “ The Cook’s Chronicle of Blrbhum, circ. 1785-1820. Being the Story of Bam 
Ghulam Bawarchi, aged 80 ”, Hunter —Annals of Rural Bengal, 1, p. 424. 



"the law-courts. The Santal are, therefore, now dependent on these 
new land-owners for their share-cropping lands. The‘economic position 
of the Santal has been further affected by the fact that the amount* of 
land per head for share-cropping has been diminishing. The reason lies 
in the fact that, while the amount of available land has remained 
constant, there has been a natural increase of population. The size of 
share-cropping holdings per household was found to vary from 5 to 24 
bighas (If to 8 acres) in 1945. 

Under the system of share-cropping practised in this region, known as 
adhi borga, ploughs, cattle and labour must be supplied by the cultivator. 
Seed rice and manure may be provided by either the cultivator or the 
owner of the land. When the harvest is ready, the crop and the straw 
have to be taken to the house of the land-owner. There, after deducting 
the amount of seeds and the cost of manure valued in terms of rice, the 
crop is divided equally. The straw is also shared equally by the owner 
and the cultivator. 

It happens quite often that during the cultivating season the cultivator 
has to borrow unhusked rice to subsist till the next harvest. In such 
cases he nan borrow rice from the owner of the land he is cultivating, 
which has to be repaid in kind with interest at the rate of 25 per cent. 

* The amount of borrowed rice plus interest is deducted from the harvest 
before it is divided. If the cultivator has any surplus after allowing for 
the year’s consumption, it is sold in the local market, and the sale proceeds 
are used to purchase salt, oil, clothes, and other necessities. Very often, 
however, there is no surplus, and he has to perform day-labour during 
the non-cultivating season in order to get the money needed for these 

goods. Some idea of the economic position of a share-cropper can be 

* % 

obtained from the following estimate. 

The amount of seed rice needed for planting 1 bigfia or £ acre of land 
is 5 seers or 10 pounds. The average yield per bigha is 5 maunds or 
400 pounds. Thus a man who farms 10 bighas of land will produce 
50 maunds of rice, out of which he will get at most 24 maunds after 
•deducting what he owes for seed, manure, and the share of the landlord. 
If we assume his family has five members, he will need about 30 maunds 
of rice annually, a minimum to provide for his basic food need. Thus 
his return is 6 maunds short of his minimum requirement. This makes 
it understandable why, in order to provide for his other needs, he must 
borrow, and earn what he can as a day-labourer. Obviously, any inter¬ 
ruption of his capacity to work, such as illness, would be disastrous. 



About 1938 the dang a lands in and around Kuotola and adjoining: 
Santal villages have been purchased by Vi&va-Bharati from the local 
zamindar of Surul. The Santal have thus become tenants of Visva ~ 
Bharat 7, and dependent upon it for their homestead sites. In order to 
bring the dahga lands under cultivation, Visva-Bharati has had excava¬ 
tions made for two large ponds on the dahga , so that the land near the 
ponds can be cultivated under irrigation. The Santal are unwilling to 
cultivate these upper dahga lands, however, since their gravelly nature 
calls for very hard work without corresponding results in the yield of 
rice. The desperate need to supply basic necessities of land, and the 
scarcity of good land, has, however, caused some farmers to cultivate 
these upland regions. 

Visva-Bharati has also enclosed a large tract of dahga land for the* 
purpose of planting it with sal and other trees in order to prevent soil 
erosion. The gradual extension in cultivation in, and the enclosure of 
these dahga lands in the vicinity of the villages, which were used for 
grazing, will inevitably affect the physical condition of the cattle belong¬ 
ing to the Santal, though no effect of the reduction of pasture on the* 
condition of Santal cattle was as yet noticeable in 1945. 

From about December to May, after the agricultural season, the 
Santal of Kuotola and the three adjoining villages organize hunting 
expeditions two or three times monthly. A convenient day is fixed 
after an evening meeting at a liquor shop at nearby Bandhgora. On 
the appointed day, the men assemble early in the morning, and go to- 
the jungles and sar forests on the bank of the river Kopai which flows* 
at a distance of about 2\ miles from Kuotola. The whole day is spent 
in hunting the hares, porcupines, pigs, squirrels, rats, snakes, and birds* 
that inhabit these small forests, using primarily bows and arrows, but 
also axes, hand-bills, and long sticks. Late in the afternoon the hunters 
collect their game, go to the liquor shop at Bandhgora, where, outside 
the shop, the birds, snakes, and rats are cooked and eaten* while the 
men consume the pocai liquor they buy for the occasion. Larger 
game, like hare, porcupine, and pig, is butchered, and shared equally,, 
except that the actual killers are given two parts instead of one. These 
shares are taken home, and consumed by the families of the hunters. 

It should be noted that the great annual hunt, Lo bir sendra , is not 
organized by the Santal here, since no large forests which can be used 
for the purpose exist in the district. One Santal of Kuotola said that 
on two occasions in his life he had attended the Lo bir sendra organized 



by the Santal of the district of Burdwan across the river A jay to the 
south, where some large forested areas are still to be found. 

Twice a month, from about August to May, the Santal of our four 
villages participate in fishing expeditions in the river Kopai. These are 
organized in the same way as hunting expeditions. As in the case of 
hunting, no woman participate in these cooperative fishing ventures. 
Fishing is done with polo, cabhi, and jhali. Polo is a bamboo frame¬ 
work, about 24 inches high, with a narrow neck and a wide, circular,, 
open bottom. This is pressed on the river bed in shallow water, the 
fisher thrusts his arm through the neck, and with his hand takes out 
whatever fish may happen to be inside. Cabhi is a netting in a circular 
framework of bamboo, attached to a long three-pronged bamboo rod. 
Jhali is a throwing net. Different varieties of fish, large as well as small, 
are caught. Unlike game, each fisherman keeps the fish he catches. 
No ceremony attaches to dividing the catch; in the late afternoon, the 
men merely return to their villages so the fish can be cooked. 

Domesticated animals include cows, oxen, buffaloes, pigs, fowls,, 
goats, and pigeons. The first three are used in ploughing, cows and oxen 
being more commonly employed for the purpose than buffaloes. Pigs 
and fowls are the customary sacrificial animals. Goats, fowls, and 
pigeons are sometimes sold to the neighbouring peoples. All these animals,, 
except the first three, are eaten on festive occasions. Doves can be 
seen in some houses. These are caught from the nearby trees and bushes, 
and tamed to be sold in the market. 

With the loss of agricultural lands, casual labour is becoming more 
and more important in the Santal economy of Blrbhum. Even those 
who own their lands, not to speak of the share-croppers, find it necessary 
to supplement their income through work of this kind. Day labourers, 
who may be men or women, perform odd jobs that come their way, 
though agricultural labour, digging earth for ponds or houses, and road¬ 
building, under the direction of neighbouring Hindus and Mohammedans, 
comprise the most important items. Many Santal of Blrbhum have 
become rice-mill workers. 

Before 1942, the average rate of wages for work of this kind was about 
6 annas or 12 cents for a nine-hour day. The advance of the Japanese 
to the Assam-Burmese border during the Second World War caused 
the construction of numerous aerodromes, and many other projects in 
connection. with the defence of India. These activities created a sudden 
demand for labour, and wages rose to about Rs. 1 \ or 48 cents a day. 



This rate was also reflected in non-military activities. At the time of this 
investigation (August, 1945), the wages of a day labourer were about one 
rupee a day. 

A number of Santal are employed in various capacities by Santiniketan 
and >§rmiketan. For example, the father of the present village priest 
of Kuotola, to whom reference has already been made, worked for some¬ 
time as a labourer at the experimental farm of Sriniketan. Some persons 
work as domestic servants in the houses of the Bengali employees of these 
two institutes, and other residents. The duties of a Santal domestic 
servant usually consist of cleaning the house, gardening, drawing water, 
and running errands. The case of Ravan Morndi, a Santal of Kuotola, 
may be mentioned here as an illustration. 

Ravan has no cattle and no plough, and therefore cannot do share 
cropping. He is employed as a domestic servant of a Bengali resident 
who lives just across the street running south of Kuotola. His duties 
are to clean the weeds in the house, look after the garden, draw water 
from the well and put it in a reservoir in the bath room, and drive, when 
necessary, the cycle rickshaw belonging to his employer, when the chil¬ 
dren of the household are to be taken to Santiniketan school on a hot day, 
or the members of the household go to the railway station at Bolpur, 
about 2J miles away. Ravan’s hours of work are approximately 8 a.m. 
to 12 a.m., and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. If required, he stays on till late in the 
evening. His monthly wage is Rs. 20 or $8. Compared to pre-war 
rates of domestic servants in this locality, this wage is high. In addi¬ 
tion to his monthly remuneration, he is given morning tea with cira 
(parched rice). 

Except for the manufacture of lime, there are no industries in Kuotola. 
Iron ploughshares and hand-bills, as has been indicated, are made by the 
resident Hindu blacksmith who is also responsible for their necessary 
repairs during the year. For this service he is paid in kind, that is 
1| sali 1 of unhusked rice per year by every family in the village. The 
demand for other industrial goods, like salt, oil and clothes, is met by 
purchase in the local market. 

The lime used by the Santal with dried tobacco leaves is manufac¬ 
tured in the following way : Snail shells are arranged into layers between 
chips of wood and bark. The whole is tied with a straw rope, and placed 
in a crate made of branches. A rope is fastened to one end of the crate, 
the bundle is ignited and a man holding the other end of the rope in his 

1 A sali is a measure basket containing about 20 seers or 40 pounds of unhusked 




hand swings the bundle by rapidly rotating it about his head. When 
no more smoke is to be seen, the lime is ready. It is then crushed and 
the powder is put into small tubes of bamboo or glass. 

Oil-pressing has almost gone out of existence. Only one oil-press, 
of the variety known as sunurn lenok * or lelen pata, 1 remains ; it is in 
the house of a Santal of Balipapa. Formerly, they used to collect small 
quantities of oil seeds, kocfa and mm, from the neighbouring orchards,, 
and press them at Balipara. The owner received a poa or half a pound 
of oil for the use of his press. With the gradual disappearance of the 
orchards, kocra and nim seeds have become scarce, and the Santal 
are compelled to buy their oil from the market. 

tSriniketan has been attempting, without much success, to introduce 
weaving, but only two young men of Kuotola were interested in learning 
the craft, and only one of them remains, the other having died in August, 
1945. The surviving one, the village priest, has set up a handloom in 
his house, and practises weaving whenever he is free. He buys yarn 
from Sriniketan at the price of Rs. 12 or $4*80 a bundle, out of which 
twelve pieces of cloth, 5 cubits by 30 inches each, can be woven. It 
takes him at least twelve days to weave twelve such pieces. Each 
piece can be sold for about Rs. 4 or $1*80. The prevailing conditions 2 
of acute cloth shortage and high prices in India, resulting from the 
Second World War, have given Sogal a stimulus to pursue his craft, 
since this will enable him, on the one hand, to protect his family from 
the effects of a cloth shortage, and, on the other, to earn cash. The 
strength of the first motive can be judged from the fact that in 1945 
many instances of suicide by working women have been reported from 
Bengal because of their inability to secure any cloth at all, so that they 
could not leave their houses. 

A new source of income has been discovered by Cumko Baske, the 
headman of Kuotola, who has come to act as a dalal or agent to the 
Hindu liquor-dealer at Bandhgora. Every evening he goes to the liquor 
shop, buys a few golas (medium sized earthen pots) of pocai at the 
rate of Rs. 2J a gola> and, after mixing the contents with hot water 
and straining the liquor, sells it to the Santal who gather at the shop. 
He makes an average profit of four annas a gold. As he can sell about 
eight golas a day, his daily income from this source amounts to about 
Rs. 2 or 64 cents, a substantial return considering the economic situation 
in rural Bengal. In addition, Cumko cultivates his own lands and 

1 See Cnapter III, p. 39. 

a i.e., prevailing in the war and the immediate post-war period. 



engages in share-cropping. Consequently he is the only prosperous 
Santal in the whole village. His family can afford to have three meals 
a day regularly, and the luxury of drinking tea with milk and sugar at 
least once a day. 

In an economic setting such as has been described, where standards 
of living are so minimal, it is understandable that production is almost 
exclusively for consumption. The family being the basic economic 
unit, and the producers themselves being the consumers, distribution 
thus consists simply in the allocation of what is produced among the 
members of a household. 

Commodities not made in the village, such as utensils made of metal, 
earthenware vessels, baskets, salt, oil, and cloth, have to be procured 
through purchase from the Bolpur market. Here also the people of 
Kuotola and the adjoining villages sell their surplus rice, if any, and, 
occasionally, their doves, fowls, pigeons and goats. The medium of 
exchange is the common Indian rupee. 

There is no craft specialization. The division of labour is primarily 
based on sex. As has been pointed out, men are hunters and do fishing. 
The allocation of tasks in agriculture according to sex is as follows: 
Ploughing, rooting out rice seedlings before transplanting them, and 
threshing are done by men. Seedlings are usually transplanted by women. 
Both men and women harvest and husk the rice. In house-building, 
roofing and thatching is done by men, while making and plastering 
mud walls is done by women. In road construction and similar work, 
men dig the earth and women carry it on their heads. Household tasks, 
such as cleaning, cooking, washing and the like, are done by women. 

With the loss of communal ownership of land, and the growth of 
individual ownership, the opportunities for cooperative activity have 
been reduced. But even today a Santal can depend on the cooperation 
of his neighbours when he needs help, e.g., in harvesting his rice crop, 
and building a house. The tradition of cooperation is still evident in 
the hunting and fishing expeditions that have been described. 

Individual ownership of land and personal property such as animals, 
clothing and utensils is recognized; definite rules of inheritance are 
followed. All property is divided equally among sons on the death of 
the father. In the absence of sons, the property goes to the brothers 
in equal proportions. Failings brothers, the nearest male relative on the* 
father's side will inherit. A surviving widow with minor children is 
entitled to remain in possession of her deceased husband's property. 



until the sons are married and establish separate households, when the 
father’s property, except for the house, is divided equally among them. 
The youngest son usually remains with the mother, and inherits the 
house after her death. 

The rule that a daughter does not inherit land is sometimes circum¬ 
vented by the device of having a ghardi jawae 1 or house bridegroom. 
If a man who has secured a ghardi jawae publicly declares, at the marriage 
ceremony and in the presence of the village jnncayat , his intention to 
make him his heir, then after his death his land and other property will 
be inherited by the ghardi jawae, instead of by his male agnates. It 
should be noticed here that the ghardi jawae is only an intermediary, 
since the real heir in such a case is the daughter. He has only a life 
interest in the property, and cannot dispose of it. If his wife dies before 
him, he has to maintain it for the children. If he has only daughters, 
however, he can, on his turn, take a ghardi jawae and thus pass the pro¬ 
perty on. 

1 See Chapter ID, p. 43. 


The Santal of Birbbum : Social Life 

A typical day at Kuotola and its adjoining villages during the farming 
season runs as follows : Men and women are up before sunrise, while 
it is still dark. The first duty of the men is to feed the cattle, after 
which they go out in the nearby khoai 1 to relieve themselves. They 
then brush their teeth with small twigs of sal or jam trees, and wash 
their mouths and faces. Before they eat, they go to the rice fields with 
ploughs on their shoulders, driving the cattle in front of them. In the 
meantime, the women clean the houses, fetch water from the well, and 
boil rice, if they do not have any cold watered rice left from the previous 
night. Then they go to the khoai, brush their teeth, and wash their mouths 
and faces, before they start for the fields carrying rice in earthen pots, 
and a few bell-metal dishes in which rice will be served for breakfast. 
Children, not old enough to work in the fields, are left behind at home 
in charge of a younger daughter or an elderly woman. They are given 
a morning meal consisting of rice and a little cooked vegetables at about 
eight o'clock. 

Men and women have breakfast in the fields, between nine and ten 
o'clock in the morning. The men continue their ploughing until about 
one o’clock, while the women do light agricultural work, such as trans¬ 
planting rice seedlings. After the ploughing is done, men turn to rooting 
out seedlings which will later be transplanted in other fields. About 
this time, too, young adolescent sons or orphans employed as cowherds 
by the cultivators take the cattle to the dahga for grazing. Men and 
women work in the fields until about six o’clock in the evening. Herd- 
boys also return to the village with their cattle at dusk. 

After reaching home, the men rest and talk about next day’s work, 
while the women bring water from the well, and cook the evening meal. 
The men eat first, then the women, and everyone goes to bed soon after¬ 

For about two months in February and March, after the harvest is 
over, the Santal who do not do casual labour spend their time attending 
marriage festivals, visiting relatives, besides doing the hunting and fishing 
that has already been described. Music and dancing accompany every 

1 A khoai is a gravelly depression in the faiiga, caused by the actkm of rain 



These daily activities center about the family, the basic unit of Santal 
social life. The family usually consists of husband, wife, and unmarried 
children. Grown-up sons set up separate households after marriage, 
while married daughters go to live with the husband’s family, returning 
to their parents in case of divorce. Joint families with grown-up 
married sons are rare. In at least one family at Kuotola a ghardi jdwae 
or “ house bridegroom ” is found . 1 

The father is the head of the family, and his authority is implicitly 
accepted by all its members. He does not act arbitrarily, however. 
\yith due regard for individual differences, it can be said that the relations 
between a man and his wife are friendly, and generally good. Children 
are gently treated, and never whipped. On the death of a mother, the 
child is taken care of by a married woman who is a paternal relative. 
If the father of a family dies, and the widow is left with minor children, 
she acts as family head until the eldest son matures. 

Polygyny is permissible but rare. Monogamy is the rule. A second 
wife is usually taken because a first wife is barren, or when there is no 
one to rare for the younger sister of a wife, or for the widow of an eider 
brother. The levirate and sororate, however, are optional and not com¬ 
pulsory ; that is to say, the younger sister of the wife or the widow of an 
elder brother cannot be forced into such unions. In all cases of second 
marriage, the consent of the first wife in the presence of the village 
pahcdyat or council is essential. 

As in the traditional pattern, a joking relationship exists between 
a woman and the younger brothers of her husband. This relationship 
has been misinterpreted by Craven and Skrefsrud as showing traces of 
fraternal polyandry among the Santa !. 2 However, the institution of 
the joking relationship does not necessarily mean the earlier existence 
of actual sexual intercourse between those who stand in this relationship 
Though certain cases of sexual intercourse between such relatives may 
occur, such cases are the exception and not the rule. More important, 
the pattern of a joking relationship between a woman and the younger 
brothers of her husband is shared by the Santal with many aboriginal 
tribes and Hindu castes of India, among whom this widespread pattern 
is either still co-existent with the practice of the levirate, or found among 
peoples with a tradition of having had the levirate in the past. Thus 
the levirate, and not polyandry, is a more probable explanation of 
the existence of the joking relationship under consideration. A parallel 

1 See below, p. 83. 

* 0. H. Craven and Rev. L. 0. Skrefsrud—“Traces of Fraternal Polyandry among 
the Santal 

10 A SI/54 




may be found in the pattern of joking relationship between a man and 
the younger sisters of his wife. This pattern is associated with sororate, 
which is still functioning not only among the Santal, but also among 
most Hindu castes, and involves no sexual relations between the parties 

The relation between a Santal man and the wife of his younger brother 
is actually marked by many restrictions and taboos, all of which are 
intended to prevent physical contact or, indeed, any kind of familiarity 
between the two. Thus they cannot be alone either in a room, or even 
in a compound. They must never sit near one another, or touch each 
other. The taboo against touching the person is also extended to clothes 
and bedsteads belonging to the two parties, who must use a special 
salutation, different from that used between other groups of relatives, 
or strangers. 

Certain relatives by marriage, who may be grouped together under 
the three categories of bahonharea} ajhmarea , 1 * and husband and wife, 
avoid mentioning each other’s name. This rule is stretched to include, 
within the sphere of avoidance, the name of any person, place, plant, 
or animal bearing the same name as the one to be avoided. When a 
reference to such names has to be made, many ways of circumventing 
the taboo are employed, as, for instance, where a person is called father 
or mother of so and so. Violations of this rule are believed to be punished 
in the next world as well as this one. 

The earlier custom of all members of a household greeting each other 
every morning before going out of the house is no longer observed. While 
greeting the father or other superiors (on first meeting them after an 
interval of a few days or weeks, for example), a person bends, instead of 
fully kneeling on the right leg as was the custom in earlier times. The 
custom of parents kissing all members of the household at least once a 
day, as some old diviners claim to have seen, does not exist at Kuotola. 
With the above exceptions the traditional manner of salutation ( johdr ), 
as practised between different groups of relatives, has remained 

In addition to the family, the other important units of Santal social 
life in Birbhum are the parts or sib, the khut or sub-sib, and the village 
community, as in the traditional pattern . 8 The sibs represented at 
Kuotola are Murmu, Hemroo, Hasdak’, Mor^di, Kisku, Baske, Tudu 
and Sorsen. A few members of the other three sibs, Besra, Pauria, 

1 See Chapter HI, p. 42. 

a See Chapter III, pp. 40-1, 40. 



and Coras, are found in tlxe adjoining village of Bali para. The number 
of families belonging to each of the eight sibs represented at Kuotola is 
as follows : The first four sibs claim 8, 4, 4 and 3 families respectively, 
while the last four have one each. The members of all these sibs enjoy 
the same social status, since there is no sib hierarchy. The patrilineal 
and patrilocal character of the sib and sub-sib are retained intact. Any 
sex relation between members of the same sib is regarded as an incest 
and tabooed. 

Though marriage with the mother’s sib is permitted, this does not 
hold for those belonging to her khut or sub-sib, since the ties with mother’s 
khut are held to be too close. Other than this, however, a person may 
marry into any other sib than his own. However, because the Besra 
and Corae sibs are regarded as inferior in social status to the others, 
there is an unwillingness to marry into them. This is more evident 
when it comes to men of other sibs marrying women belonging to them 
than it does where it is a question of permitting girls of other sibs to 
marry Besra and Corse men. The reason for this is because girls, on 
marriage, no longer belong to the sibs of their fathers, but adopt those 
of their husbands. Therefore, the action of the son is more important 
than that of the daughter in preserving social status. 

Of the seven traditional forms of Santal marriage, three are found at 
Kuotola and other villages in Birbhum. These are kirin bahu bapla 
or “bought bride” marriage, sahga , i.e., marriage between a widower 
or a divorced man and a widow or a divorced woman, and gfiardi jawae 
bapla in which the father-in-law secures a “house bridegroom”. The 
first form, contracted between unmarried young men and women, is 
the most common and respectable. The last form of marriage is present, 
but rare. Kala Morndi of Kuotola has a ghardi jawae who lives with 
him and helps in the agricultural work of the family. 

Kirin bahu bapla is also called bapla biha by the Santal of Kuotola. 
The word biha comes from the Bengali word for marriage, bibdha. As 
the Santali word bapla also means marriage, bapla biha may be tran¬ 
slated as “marriage par excellence”. The average age for kirin bahu 
bapla is 20 for young men and 15 for young women. It is normally 
arranged by parents with the help of a raebaric ’ or match-maker. There 
is no professional class of match-makers, but friends and relatives usually 
act in this capacity. In every type of marriage, the consent of the 
principals is essential. If both live in the same village, it is easy to 
find out whether they like each other or not. But if they belong to 
different villages, the intermediary arranges a day when the parents and 




relatives of the two meet in an open field. They are introduced and 
salute each other. It is on this occasion that the principals get an 
opportunity to see one another from a distance, and coming to a decision 
about the proposed match. 

In arranging a marriage, the parents of the bridegroom pay bride¬ 
wealth to the parents of the bride. Bride-wealth consists of a cash 
amount known as pon, plus certain payments in kind, such as cloth and 
cattle. Three or four sarees or cotton cloths are given to the bride’s 
mother and her other female relatives, and a male calf is given to the 
bride’s elder brother. 

The amount of money that passes as bride-wealth increased after 
1942 at Kuo tola and neighbouring Santal villages ; Rs. 12 or $4*80 sufficed 
until that time. Then, suddenly, the Santal of a village named Paruldaiiga 
demanded from a young man of Kuotola Rs. 14 or §5-60 for one of their 
girls, their reason being that prices were rising as a result of the war. 
There was much resistance to this demand on the part of Kuotola, but 
as the young man and his parents vrere anxious to make a match with 
this particular young woman, they eventually accepted it. Once the 
people of Kuotola were forced to accede to this increased rate, they began 
to demand the same amount from other villagers who sought their 
daughters in marriage. Other villages followed, so that in 1943 the^sum 
of Rs. 14 had come to be fixed as the amount of pon for this area. 

In marriage involving a widow or a divorced woman, the money that 
passed was Rs. 7| or $3-00 until about 1925. Then the amount was 
raised to Rs. 12, the same as that for a Jcirin balm bapla. When in 
1942 the amount demanded for the latter form of marriage was 
increased, that for sanga marriage increased in like amount. The reason 
put forward for this was that a widow or a divorcee is usually grown, 
and consequently capable of doing more work than young women 
given in the kirin baliu bapla type of marriage, where the bride is to be 
married for the first time. 

If a divorced man wishes to marry an unmarried young woman, he 
has to give Rs. 19 or §7*60,-—that is, Rs. 5 more than that given by an 
unmarried young man. But in contracting such a marriage a widower 
has to give a still higher amount, Rs. 23 or §9-20. This is due to the 
belief that an unmarried young woman takes a risk of premature death 
in marrying a man whose first wife has died. Obviously, a greater 
pecuniary inducement becomes necessary to obtain the consent of her 
family to place her in this situation. 



Divorce may be had at the desire of either party to a marriage. If 
the wife decides to leave the husband, but without any fault on his 
part, the amount of pon (Rs. 14) and one male calf has to be returned. 
If the decision for divorce comes from the husband, he has to pay his 
wife Rs. 5, one cotton cloth, and a bell-metal dish, in addition to for¬ 
feiting his claim to a refund of the pon, The compensatory payments 
made by one party to the other on divorce are called chadaodi . 

It has been mentioned before that a divorced man or a widower, 
marrying an unmarried girl, has to pay a higher pon than usual.* But 
if a wife decides to divorce such a husband, she is required to repay only 
Rs. 14, the usual amount of pan in the Jcirin bahu bapla type of marriage. 
Divorced men and widowers who have married or intend to marry such 
young women have come to regard this as unfair, however, and feel 
that in case of a divorce they should recover the full amount of pon 
paid by them. They have, therefore, begun to demand an increase in 
the amount of compensatory payment they are to recover on divorce. 
This matter is frequently discussed when the Santai of Kuotola and other 
villages in the region meet at the liquor shop at Bandhgopa. The ques¬ 
tion, however, has not been resolved. 

The most common cause of divorce is adultery, but adultery does 
not necessarily lead to a divorce. After certain compensatory payments 
are made by the adulteror, husband and wife may be reconciled, and re¬ 
sume living together. Repeated offences on the part of one party, 
however, generally cause the other to have recourse to divorce. Un¬ 
willingness of one party to cohabit with the other is also recognized as 
grounds for divorce. For a woman to be suspected of witchcraft is not 
held a valid reason for divorce in Kuotola. 

All divorce cases are adjudged before the village pancayat or council 
which constitutes itself a kind of court to investigate all aspects of the 
situation. When guilt has been established, it is the duty of the panca¬ 
yat to see that the customary payments are made. The marriage is 
ended by a rite called salcam orec 9 or “breaking off relations”. In this 
ceremony, the Santai High God, Sin Bonga , the “national” deities, 
and ancestors are invoked ; and the party wanting divorce tears off 
sal leaves to symbolize the breaking of relations. 

For married people, men as well as women, chastity and conjugal 
fidelity are socially prescribed. Adultery is always penalized. To 
have sex relations with a married woman is considered worse than with 
an unmarried one. This is reflected in the penalty exacted in the two 

1 See aboye, p. 84. 



eases. A man committing adultery with a married woman must pay 
the aggrieved husband Us. 60 or §24; whereas for adultery with an 
unmarried girl, one has to pay the father only Rs. 19 or §7-60. 

Even if the adulteror, caught in the act, is subjected to physical 
violence, he is not exempt from the payment of the traditional penalty. 
This may be illustrated by the following case that occurred at Bagan- 
para, on the occasion of a marriage in the village. After some searching, 
a husband discovered his wife and another man in a dark room. He 
raised a great outcry, brought the culprits to light, and before all the 
villagers beat them both. The next day the pahcayat met, and decreed 
that the adulteror must pay the aggrieved husband the customary penalty 
of Rs. 60. The husband refused to take the wife back ; so she started 
living with the other man without any kind of ceremony. Since the 
other man was already married, he was now in difficulty with two women. 
However, after some time there was reconciliation between the wife and 
her husband, and she returned to him. 

— 2 — 


The critical periods in the life of the individual are marked by rituals 
in which the entire village community participate. There are four 
such rites de passage } namely, janam chatiar or birth rites, coco chatiar 
or rites admitting one as a full member of Santal society, marriage land 
death rites. These rites have not changed, and still follow the tradi 
tional pattern, with only minor variations in the case of the last two. 
A description of the essential features of the four rites de passage is 
given below. 

Janam chatiar , when the newly-born infant is named, ordinarily 
occurs on the fifth day after birth in the case of a boy, or on the third 
day if the child is a girl. If the infant is born one to three days before 
the new moon, this rite, which must be performed before the new moon, 
may be held even on the first day after birth, because after the first 
new moon, the child is held to enter the second month of its life, and to 
be named in the second month is harmful. Janam cliatiar may be 
said to have a three-fold function. It purifies the house and the village 
from the defilement caused by the birth of a child ; it admits the child 
into the sib of its father, and thereby gives it the status of a Aa/*, i.e., a 
human being; and it individualizes a child by giving it a name. The 
ceremonial procedures are as follows : 

On the day of the rite th^ villagers go to the house of the child. The 
nau or barber shaves the males of the village in the following order, 



first the naeke or priest, then the manjhi or headman, next the other 
pancdyat officials, then other villagers in need of a hair-cut, and finally 
the father of the child. After all this, the hair of the child’s head is 
shaved, when the men go to the nearest pond to bathe. The women 
bathe after the men have returned. The midwife now soaks a thread 
in turmeric, and ties it about the child’s waist. She next purifies the 
assembled people by sprinkling a mixture of flour and water first on the 
child, then on the men beginning with the priest, and finally on the women 
beginning with the priest’s wife. At the end of this sprinkling of flour- 
mixture, the midwife formally announces the name of the child. 

Names are given in accordance with traditionally established rules. 
An eldest son is given the name of the paternal grandfather, the second 
that of the maternal grandfather, the third that of the paternal grand¬ 
father s brother, and the fourth that of the maternal grandfather’s 
brother. The daughters are given the names of the equivalent female 
relatives, and in the same order. If the father is a “house bridegroom,” 

the naming order is reversed ; that is, names on the maternal side come 

Most Santal are given two names. One is called mul or “real name,” 
and the other hahna or an auxiliary one. The mul name of the child 
must correspond to the mul name of the relative after whom he is called. 
The bahna name may or may not be that of this person. After formally 
announcing the mul name, the midwife salutes the priest and other 
villagers. The conclusion of the ceremony consists in the villagers drink¬ 
ing the purificatory nim dak mandi or the gruel of rice boiled with nim 
leaves. That is why the ceremony is also called nim dak ’ mandi. 

Without performing the caco chatiar rite, which entitles an indivi¬ 
dual to the rights, duties, and privileges of a full-fledged member of 
Santal society, a Santal man cannot marry or be cremated. This rite 
does not apply to women, because they, being debarred from attending 
the communal worship of the “national” deities and from eating the 
sacrificial meat, 1 can never be full-fledged members of Santal society. 
There is no fixed time for the observance of this ceremony; in practice 
it is held at any time convenient to a family when the child is between 
the ages of four and twelve. If a man has two or three sons, he can 
perform the caco chatiar of all of them together, in the event they are not 
too disparate in age. In any case it has to be performed before marriage. 

The villagers assemble in the house of the one who is to go through 
the cereniony, and the girls of the village anoint the priest and his wife 

1 See Chapter VII, p. 103. 



with oil and turmeric. They then do this to the headman and his wife, 
and to the other men of the village in the order indicated in describing 
the ritual of birth and naming. Rice-beer is served to all those present, 
and they sing a song appropriate to the occasion, and dance. A guru, 
who is well-versed in Santal mythology, recites the myth which tells 
of the creation of the world, the dispersal of the Santal, the wanderings 
of their ancestors and how they came to occupy the area where they 
are today. Towards the end of this recital, he adds statements introduc¬ 
ing the parents on both sides of the boy. The guru then enters into 
a sort of colloquy with the village people, in which he emphasizes the 
fact that all impurities of the young person have been washed away, 
and that by drinking the rice-beer served to them, the villagers have 
expressed their willingness to accept the boy as a full participant in. 
village affairs. 

The rites observed in consummating a kirin bahu bapla , x the most 
common form of marriage, may be given here. After the marriage has 
been arranged by the parents of the young man and the girl, with the 
help of the match-maker, a day is fixed for the ceremony of betrothal. 
On this day, a party composed of friends and relatives of the bride 
come to the house of the bridegroom with gifts, and are entertained with 
food and drink. In the presence of the pancdyat officials, the father 
of the bride, or her eldest brother takes the bridegroom on his knee, 
and either fastens an iron wristlet ( todor) on his wrist, or places a charm 
container (mandoli) about his neck. Shortly after, a party of friends 
and relatives of the bridegroom go to the house of the bride, where 
a similar ceremony is performed. Here the father of the bridegroom 
seats his prospective daughter-in-law on his knee, and places a necklace 
about her neck. A part of the bride-wealth passes at this time. 

A day is next fixed for the actual marriage ceremony. Count of 
the passage of time is kept by a knotted string, one knot of which is 
untied each day. On the day the last knot has been untied, the bariat 
or party of the bridegroom consisting of his co-villagers and other relatives, 
start for the bride’s village, where they are received with water to wash 
their feet. They rest in a grove just outside the village. After a time 
they are invited to perform sindra dan , the essential rite of the marriage 
ceremony, that takes place on the village street outside the house of 
the bride, where it can be seen by all. The bridegroom and the bride, 
who have been fasting for the whole day as a purificatory measure, 
are now placed face to face. The bridegroom sits astride on the shoulders 

1 See above, p. 83-4. 



of his prospective brother-in-law, or of his uncle, while the bride is seated 
an a flat basket. In this position, she is raised to the level of the bride¬ 
groom, who now marks her with sindur , or vermilion, on her forehead^ 
using his right little finger. What is left of the sindur on the sal leaf 
in which it is contained is wiped off on her brow. This is the essential 
rite. Now they are husband and wife. The couple are lowered to the 
ground and the corners of their clothes tied together, symbolically 
expressing the precept that one must follow the other. The couple is 
taken inside the house of the bride, to eat together after their day's fast. 
This meal has ceremonial importance, since it symbolizes the acceptance 
of the bride into the sib of her husband. 

The bridegroom's party return to their resting grove after the sindra 
dan rite. But they are soon invited to return to the house of the bride, 
where they are offered a goat to provide them with food. Salutations 
are exchanged between the fathers and uncles of the bride and bride¬ 
groom, and others present. Libations of rice-beer are offered to the 
deity Mar an Bum , and to the ancestors by the father of the bride, 
after which all are served rice-beer. At this time the father of the 
bridegroom, through the match-maker, gives the remainder of the bride¬ 
wealth, and also proffers a gift of three clothes to the bride's female rela¬ 

The observance of this ritual, and other less important rites in connec¬ 
tion with marriage, requires about two days. On the second day the 
bridegroom's party return to their village, together with the bride. 
The people of the bride's village accompany them to the end of the 
village street, where the two parties formally take leave of one another. 
This formal leave-taking is symbolized by a stereotyped conversation 
between the officials af the two villages. Only brothers of the bride 
or a few other young men and an elderly woman accompany her as far 
as the village of her newly wedded husband. 

When the bridegroom's party reach their village, the couple are 
taken to each house there, and offered molasses and water to drink. 
When they arrive at the house of the village head, a libation of water 
is poured to the spirit of the last departed headman. The couple enter 
their own house last of all, where the marriage is consummated. Next 
day a goat is killed, and a feast arranged in honour of the bride's brothers, 
who are also presented with a male calf. Before the feast, the young 
couple are told in stereotyped phrases, about the need to help each other, 
and to share all their possessions. After^ the feast, the brothers and 
friends of the bride return to their village. 



A Santal marriage, it is clear from the foregoing description, is more 
than an arrangement entered into by two individuals or even two families. 
It is a matter in which two entire villages are concerned. The prominent 
role played by the headman and, especially, the superintendent 
of the morals of the youth (jog-monjhi) in arranging and concluding 
marriage ceremonies is an indication of the degree to which the entire 
village community senses its responsibility in the affair. For not only 
two individuals and their families, but also two villages are united by 
a bond of relationship as a result of a marriage. This is made clear 
by the prolonged interchange of conventional phrases between the 
jog-mmjJii or the mmjhi of the two villages at the time of formal leave- 
taking. This interchange emphasizes that the ‘pot*, as the bride is 
figuratively called, has been selected only after taking good omens and 
all human care, and the couple has been united in the presence of Sin 
Bonga , the High God, the national deities, and ancestral spirits, and 
that should anything go wrong, not one should be blamed. 

The final rite de passage has to do with the rituals of death, which 
center about cremation of the body. On the death of a person, the 
grief-stricken relatives, specially women, do a lot of wailing, after which 
the body is carried by relatives and friends of the deceased to the bank 
of the Kopai river, where a pyre is built. The corpse is placed on the 
pyre, and covered with a leafy branch, so that the clothing worn by tne 
dead, too valuable in this poverty-ridden culture to allow of their 
destruction, will not be consumed. The eldest son or the nearest relative 
takes a small torch; wraps it with a bit of cloth worn by the dead person, 
and, after lighting it, turns his face away so as not to see it as he lays it 
so that the flame is at the mouth of the corpse. Everyone then throws 
a piece of firewood on the pyre, and fires are kindled on all sides at the 
base. It requires about three hours before the body is consumed,, during 
which time the mourners sit at a distance, and discuss the life of the 
deceased as well as metaphysical problems of life and death. 

After cremation a piece of the frontal portion of the skull and two bits 
from the collar bone are washed, and placed in a new earthen pot. Then 
all who took part in cremation go to the liquor shop at Bandhgora and 
drink as guests of the surviving relatives of the dead person, who them¬ 
selves do not drink at this time. 

At some convenient later date, but customarily during December 
after the harvest festival, the ritual of jan baha , the “immersion of the 
bones” in the river Damodor, which is sacred to the Santal people, 
occurs. On reaching the Damodor, the nearest male relative carrying 



the pot, which contains the bones, steps into water, faces east towards 
the sun, and drops the bones while diving. On the bank he also makes 
an offering of a cloth, a brass plate, soap-earth, and tooth brushes 4o 
the deceased, and to Pilcu Haram and Pilcu Bu<Jhi, the original ances¬ 
tors of the Santal, since this rite is held to facilitate the reunion of the 
dead with their ancestral spirits. The things offered are for the use 
of the departed. Nowadays, many people in this region perform jah 
baha in the Kopai, instead of the Damodor river, for the Damodor is 
far away from Blrbhum, and those who have been reduced to the position 
of landless labourers find it difficult to spare the time or find the money 
for a trip to the distant river. 

Mourning is terminated by the bhandan , a feast where sacrifices 
are offered to the ancestral spirits, and to which the relatives of the dead 
person, and his fellow-villagers are invited. Only after the performance 
of this sacrifice, can marriage and other ritual activities be resumed 
by the household of the deceased. The amounts of food offered at the 
bhandan feast are becoming smaller with increasing deterioration in the 
economic situation of the people, however. Some Santal, in their 
eagerness to manifest their respect for the dead in the traditional way, 
go into debt, subsequently finding that they are unable to clear themselves 
without losing to the money-lender whatever remnants of land they 
may have had. 

— 3 — 

Though the family, sib, and sub-sib are important social units of 
the village of Kuotola, the community itself plays the dominant role 
in the social life of the people, as it does in all Santal villages. Every 
family is an integral part of this village community. Many important 
economic activities, and all socio-religious functions are the concern 
of the entire group. Whether it is hunting and fishing, or a ceremony 
in the life cycle of the individual, or a festival connected with cultivation, 
the whole village community must participate. The phenomenon of 
a solitary, isolated family functioning by itself is not found. The situation 
is quite different from that in large cities where a family can go on living 
completely oblivious of its neighbours. 

All this presupposes a fully functioning organization to direct affairs ; 
and this is provided by the pancayat (literally, “board of five”), or the 
council of village elders. The word pancayat is of Sanskrit origin, and 
must have been adopted by the Santal people from the Hindus long ago. 
The Santali term morce hor (literally, “five persons”), which is used to 



denote the village community, is also sometimes used to refer to the 
pancdyat as a body representative of the community, 

^The pancdyat at Kuotola, though it cannot be said to be a full- 
fledged one, consists of the five principal officials named in our description 
of this institution as found among the Santal in general. 1 These are 
a headman, an assistant headman, a village priest, an overseer of the 
morals of the village youth, and a messenger. In addition to the above, 
there is also an officer not found in the councils as traditionally consti¬ 
tuted, the bhogdar , a kind of adviser. The function of the overseer 
of the village youth, th q jog-monjhi, can best be described in the intensive 
study of the life of a village such as Kuotola, and may be given a word 
here. He is not so much one who controls the youth as, for example, in 
preventing premarital sex relations between village boys and girls, as 
one who is supposed to know what is happening, so that should an un¬ 
married girl become pregnant, he would be able to advise the village 
headman and the other officials to solve the problem when it was presented 
to the village council. It is his business, that is, to gain the confidence 
of the youth of the village rather than to punish them. 

The traditional economic role of the assistant headman, who periodi¬ 
cally redistributed land in order to prevent the monopoly of the more 
fertile plots by particular persons, has disappeared in the area we are 
considering, since individual ownership of land has replaced communal 
ownership. The function of the bhogdar is merely to attend every 
meeting of the pancdyat and the village community, and give his consent 
to the decisions arrived at after joint deliberations. Whenever a decision 
is reached, the headman will turn to him, and say, “What do you think, 
bhogdar ? Is it right”? If the bhogdar concedes, as he usually does, this 
concludes the matter. If he should fail to do so, however, there would be 
rediscussion of the question. If the same decision were reached, he 
would undoubtedlv consent. 

As in other Santal communities, the pancdyat officials are elected 
by the people, holding their posts hereditarily, but always ultimately 
at the pleasure of the village community, who may recall and replace 
an incompetent or selfish official. On the other hand, a village officer 
may resign his post, if he wishes. Thus in 1944 Mangru Hasdak’ of 
Kuotola resigned his office of godet, because, as he said, it interfered 
with working his field, and Basra Murmu was elected in his place. 

The village headman and his assistant are not paid for their services. 
But the priest and the messenger receive one rupee four annas or fifty 

1 See Chapter III, p. 46. 



cents each annually, from sums collected by the latter official from the 
villagers. The jog-monjhi receives one cloth on the occasion of every 
mamage m the village. Aside from these small compensations, pancSyat 
officials are not remunerated for the work they perform, nor do they 
enjoy any special privileges. And while some prestige is attached to 
eir offices, the attitude of the villagers toward these men depends 
more on the personality of the individual holding an office than on any 
set toward the office itself. 

The other functionaries in Kuotola, who are not members of the 
pancayat, are the ojha guru, village medicine-man, and the mu or 
the village barber. The former cares for all cases of illness, and is paid 
Rs. 2J or a dollar a year for his services by the community. The services 
of the mu are called for on the birth of a baby in the village. 1 At Kuotola, 
the ojha guru and the nau also happen to be the jog-mmjhi and the 
bhogdar respectively. Yet it is clearly recognised that only in their 
latter capacities are they members of the pancayat, and in other villages 

different men hold the four offices, and the medicine-man and barber 
do not belong to the council. 

The relation between the Santal village community and the two 
Hindu families, one Ghatwal and one blacksmith, living at Kuotola 
is more economic than social. They attend each other’s festivals, e.g.’ 
marriage ceremonies, but do not accept any cooked food from each other, 
while any intermarriage between them is held to be out of the question! 
The Santal strictly observe tribal endogamy, while the Ghatwal and the 
blacksmith families belong to two Hindu castes which are also endo- 
gamous. The Santal regard themselves as socially superior to the two 
Hindu families ; similarly, each of the latter holds itself superior to the 
villagers among whom they live. The Ghatwal family sell dry foods, 
such as parched and puffed rice, to the Santal people of Kuotola. The 
Ghatwals are, however, not fully dependent on the Santal, since they 
also sell their foodstuffs to non-Santal peoples in the neighbourhood, 
and work in the institutes of Santiniketan and Srlniketan. 

The blacksmith, Bilas Rana, and his sister’s husband who lives with 
him make and repair iron ploughshares for the Santal, who pay them 
in kind. 2 This close economic interrelationship between the blacksmith 
and the Santal villagers has led to closer social relations between them 
Though they do not allow intermarriage and interdining, yet for all 
practical pu rposes the family of the blacksmith forms an integral part 

1 See above, p. 86. 

* See Chapter V, p. 76. 



of the village community. The intimate, personal problems of the- 
blacksmith family are placed before the village pancayat for solution, 
and the latter, in its turn, regards the honour of the former as bound 
up with that of its own community. 

A concrete illustration will make this point clear. Bilas married 
the daughter of the blacksmith of the adjoining Santal village of Kali- 
gonjo. In August, 1945, his wife left him, and went back to her father s 
house, charging that she was ill-treated and abused by her mother-in- 
law. Bilas and his mother, on the other hand, claimed that the young 
woman was extremely rude and ill-tempered, and “returned ten words 
for one of the mother-in-law’’. 

The young woman’s father wished to return the bride-wealth, and 
end the marriage, but Bilas wanted his wife back. Being requested 
by Bilas to solve this problem, Cumko Baske, the Santal headman of 
Kuotola, arranged a day when the pancayat bodies of Kuotola and 
Kaligonjo might meet so as to satisfactorily resolve the quarrel. Perhaps 
because of the implications of this move, the wife returned to her hus¬ 
band’s home just before the appointed day of meeting. The wife’s 
brother, however, came to the house of Bilas to demand his sister back ; 
and, in the consequent argument, threatened violence. Hearing the 
noise, Cumko Baske, the village headman, intervened. “Don’t forget,” 
he said to the intruder, “that this is our village, and Bilas is our black¬ 
smith, If you raise your hand against him, we shall punish you.” 
This frightened the brother-in-law, and he returned to his village ; and 

this ended the affair. 

This incident also suggests the relationship that obtains between 
Santal villages. The formal grouping of a number of Santal communities 
into a wider political organization under the leadership of a pargana 1 
and desmanjhi, 1 found in traditional Santal culture, is no longer in 
existence in Blrbhum. But traces of this wider political system may be 
observed in the kind of arrangement for mutually beneficial matters 
that is found between Kuotola and its neighbours. The people of the 
four villages that are grouped together organize joint hunting and fishing 
expeditions. Inter-village disputes were not taken to the British courts 
of law that would have jurisdiction over them, but were generally settled 
by a session in which the pancayat bodies of the villages concerned join 
to render judgment. If a meeting of two pancayat bodies should fail 
to reach a solution, the pancayat bodies of all the four villages are 
convened to debate the question* 

1 See Chapter HI, p. 46. 



This system of joint deliberations does not end with the group of 
four villages. In the event that an agreement cannot be reached, the 
system may be extended to include the influential people of non-Santhl 
villages in the vicinity. Only if this group failed to settle the dispute, 
would the Santa! think of taking their inter-village dispute to British 
courts. The unwillingness to take immediate recourse to these alien 
courts was to be accounted for by the fact of the tenaciousness of the 
traditional political system of the Santal, and by the expense involved 
if recourse was had to legal proceedings. 

Certain informal social relations are to be observed among the Santal 
of a much wider area than that which comprises the group of four villages 
between Santiniketan and Srlniketan. This wider area is formed by 
the Santal villages within a radius of about five miles of the liquor shop 
at Bandhgora. In the evenings the Santal of these villages assemble 
at the liquor shop, and here the problems affecting Santal life in the 
area as a whole may be discussed. It is on such occasions that divorced 
and widowed husbands raise the matter of increasing the amount of 
compensatory payments to be paid by their wives in case of a divorce. 1 
It was here that discussions regarding the raising of the amount of cash 
to be given as bride-wealth for an unmarried girl took place. Dates 
for hunting and fishing expeditions involving a number of villages are 
discussed and arranged. These informal evening meetings at the liquor 
shop in Bandhgora may, as a matter of fact, be regarded as a new institu¬ 
tion growing up among the Santal of this region, an institution which 
has been partially filling the vacuum created by the disappearance 
of wider, traditional institutions under which there were the pargana, 
or headmen of village-groups, and the Lo bir , 2 or the tribal Hunt-Council, 
that included the people of many village-groups. 

The strongest sanction at the disposal of the village community, 
bitlaha or ostracism, has lost much of its traditional force. For one 
thing, the individual no longer depends on the community to allot him 
the lands he is to cultivate. Concomitantly, share-cropping and casual 
labour, which are individualistic and not communal, has likewise tended 
to undermine the force of communal disapproval. Finally, it is easy 
to run away, and obtain work in a distant plantation, mine and factory, 
should the traditional sanctions be imposed on a person. 

The Santal villages in this region have maintained the economic and 
social democracy that is the traditional mark of Santal social structure.. 

1 See above, p. 85. 

8 See Chapter III, p. 47. 



They may be rich or poor people, relatively speaking, depending 
upon the providence or improvidence of the individual; but the range 
cf economic resources available to the members of the community is 
quite narrow. Every adult has to perform certain essential economic 
activities, and depends mainly on his own labour for his livelihood. No 
one has enough surplus to hire others to do his manual labour for him. 
This is reflected in the social sphere, where hierarchy is conspicuously 
absent. Only the rudiments of social stratification are observable ; 
as, for example, in the fact that the Besra and Corse sibs are regarded 
as somewhat inferior to the others. 

— 4 — 

The teaching of reading and writing was begun by a group of Bengali 
students of Santiniketan about 1906, when they organized informal 
classes at Kuotola. Since that time, efforts in this direction have been 
spasmodic, depending on the enthusiasm of individual students and 
teachers of Santiniketan. As a result, a number of Santal became 
literate, and then, in course of time, forgot what they had learned. 
In 1945, three adult Santal were found, who may be said to have attained 
permanent literacy. The standard of literacy used here is, however, 
very low, and consists only in their ability to read and write a little 
Bengali. Sogal Marmji, the village priest, who attended Santiniketan 
school for about five years, can recognize the English alphabet. 

In 1932 was established at Kuotola, under the auspices of the Educa¬ 
tion Department of Srlniketan, a formal lower primary school, named 
“Suruldanga Suhrd Santal School.” In 1945 it was converted into 
an upper primary school, and a Hindu teacher from Khejurdanga, 
a village about two miles to the north, was placed in charge of it. The 
subjects taught are Bengali, arithmetic, and geography. There is 
no provision for teaching the Santal language in the school. 

The school has a registration of forty-five Santal boys of Kuotola 
and the adjoining villages, but the average daily attendance is only about 
twenty-five. At Kuotola there are twenty boys of school age, of whom 
sixteen are on the school register. Girls, however, have no school they 
can attend, because it is not thought proper for them to be given an 
education. There is thus not a single Santal woman in the locality 
who can read or write. 

The fact that some Santal children are being taught Bengali has 
had the effect of reinforcing the process whereby the Santal of Birbhum 
are becoming bilingual. They speak Santali among themserves, but 



Bengali, the language of the district, when they talk to others. As 
they are in daily contact with Bengali-speaking people, and cannot, 
get along without some knowledge of the language, every Santal has 
had to pick up enough Bengali to enable him to carry on a simple con¬ 
versation. The Bengali they speak, however, is cast into the grammatical 
mould of Santali, especially in the case of illiterate Santal. The point 
may be illustrated by the following example. 

The second person singular in Bengali has three forms,— dpni, tumi, 
and tui . The word dpni implies respect, and is used while speaking to 
strangers or superiors ; tumi is the familiar form used while speaking to 
equals or intimates; tui is generally employed when addressing inferiors. 
These three words are followed by three corresponding verb forms. Thus 
“How are you” would be rendered as dpni kcemon achen , or tumi 
kcemon acho, or tui Jccemon achis . But the second person singular in 
Santali has only one form, am (corresponding to “thou”), followed by 
a single verbal form without making any distinction in meaning as 
implied in the three forms of the second person singular in Bengali. 
Therefore, a Santal speaking Bengali with a stranger or a man of high 
social position will enquire tui kcemon achis, instead of dpni kcemon 
achen . Bengali-speaking persons who are not familiar with the Santali 
usage have been known to feel insulted, and are angered until they 
realize that Bengali, as spoken by a Santal, fails to incorporate the polite 
forms that are essential in correct Bengali usage. 

Sriniketan has also begun to organize the boys of the locality, between 
eleven and eighteen years of age, into groups who volunteer for work 
useful to the community, and who participate in events that bring the 
people of the region together. Thus each year, on the occasion of the 
annual ceremony of the foundation day of Srlniketan, these groups 
(known as “Bratl-Balak”) take part in sporting contests, the Santal 
company participating along with others. Through this organization 
and the events in which it takes part, the Santal youth are coming into 
closer contact with the Bengali youth of the district. This has had 
the result of accelerating the trend toward bilingualism, and of drawing 
the local Santal within the wider scope of Bengali society. 


The Santal of Blrbhum : Religion 

As we have seen, the Santal believe that the Universe was created 
by Thdhur, the Supreme Being, In the beginning all was water, with 
the earth below. Only six animals lived in the water, the alligator, the 
prawn, the boar-fish, the crab, the tortoise, and the king of earthworms. 
Then a pair of swans was created. As there was no place for them to 
land, Thdkur ordered the animals to raise the earth from under the water. 
This, however, they could not do, because the earth was constantly 
being washed away by the waves. Finally, they chained the feet of the 
tortoise to the four corners of the earth, after which the earthworm 
swallowed dirt, passed it through his body, and deposited it on the back 
of the tortoise, fhokur harrowed this deposit and the mountains were 
thus formed. He also sowed bena (Andropogon muricatus) and other 
kinds of grass. 

The two swans made their nest in the bena grass, and of their mating 
came the first human beings, a man and a woman named Pilcu Hayam 
and Pilcu Bucjhi. Thdkur gave the swans a piece of cotton, and in¬ 
structed them to soak it in their food and then press it out into the 
mouths of the babies. As the human pair grew, they came to need a 
better place to live. At the command of fhdkur, the swans flew to the 
west, and found a place called Hihip-Pipri, to which they carried the 
children, who subsisted on the seeds of sumtu bukuc ’ (Kleusine aegyptiaca, 
Pers.) and sama grass (Panicum colonum, Linn.). When they were 
fully grown, Mar an Burn , Thdkur’s principal assistant, came to them, 
told them he was their grandfather, and taught them how to brew rice- 
beer. Under the influence of this beer, they forgot their relationship 
as brother and sister, and had sexual intercourse. In due course, they 
had seven sons and seven daughters, who also mated with each other, 
and thus multiplied the race. After many wanderings the descendants 
of the original pair, came to occupy the area where the Santal are found 

In the belief system of the Santal, the sun is regarded as a male 
deity and called Sift Cando. The moon, Ninda Cando , is his wife, 
and the stars are their children. A number of constellations are dis¬ 
tinguished and given names of things familiar to the Santal. For 
example, the Great Bear is the Burhi parkom , the old woman’s bed. 
The rainbow is Lita ak\ the bow of the mythical hero Lita , or Mar an 
Burn, The Milky Way is Hat dahar , the path to the market. 



Natural phenomena are explained by the actions of mythical beings. 
For example, the eclipses of the sun and moon are caused by the hand 
of a mythical money-lender trying to seize them for arrears of debt. 
Thunder and lightning are believed to be the manifestation of angry 
deities, and this is shown in the way in which these manifestations are 
spoken of, e.g., “ he thunders, ” “ he rains.” Earthquakes are believed 
to be caused by movements of the tortoise, on whose back the earth rests. 

The Santal Universe is peopled with numerous entities whose reality 
is taken for granted, and with whom the Santal believe themselves to 
be in intimate contact. These supernatural beings may be classified 
under three categories, ThdJcur 1 or High God, bongos 2 * or spirits, and 
non-human monstrous beings . 8 

According to tradition, the Santal originally worshipped a High God 
alone. They adopted bonga worship from the allied Munda tribe in the 
distant past when they were fleeing from Champa to save the honour 
of their maidens from a threatened molestation by a non-Santal tyrant 
called Madhu Sing, While passing through Mun<Ja territory, their 
path of escape was barred by natural obstacles which opened only when 
they promised to worship the bongas . 4 In terms of Santal legend, it 
seems that the bongas , after their incorporation into the Santal beha¬ 
vioral world, were plaoed into a definite relationship to the original High 
God. As they say, fhakur was bongakoren bonga , i.e., the bonga of 
the bongas . The bongas , including their leader Maran Burn , were the 
godets or messengers of Phdhur, just as the secular godet of a Santal village 
pancayat is the messenger of the monjhi or headman. After faithfully 
serving JPMwr for some time, the bongas thought that they were doing 
all the work, and consequently should have more power also. So they 
came in conflict with Thakur who drove them from his presence. Since 
then the bongas have come down on the earth, and settled everywhere. 

Bongas may be divided into two groups, national and lesser. The 
national bongas consist of six deities, namely, Maran Bum , Mojceko 
or Morceko Turuiko (literally, five-six, but now representing only one 
deity), Jahcer era , Gosae era , Pargana Bonga , and Monjlii Bonga . Maran 
Bum (literally, a great mountain), the leader of all the bongas , refers 
to a hill spirit, and is generally associated with the high Parasnath 

1 See Chapter III, p. 47. 

* See Chapter III, p. 48. 

* See Chapter III, p. 48. 

4 See Chapter II, p. 22. 




Range in the district of Hazaribagh. Jahcer era and Gosae era are 
sisters of Mofceko . Pargana Bonga and Mdhjhi Bonga seem to be thfc 
spiritual counterparts of the Santa! social institutions, pargana 1 and 
nwnjhi. 2 

The lesser deities include Sima Bonga , the deity of village boundary, 
Bahre Bonga , the deity of village outskirts, and the family bongos . The 
family bongos are of three kinds: Opalc' Bonga or deity of the house¬ 
hold ; Abge Bonga or the secret deity of the family; and Ancestral 
Bonga or the spirits of the deceased ancestors. The place reserved 
for all the family deities, found in every Santal house, is called the bhitar . 
The family deities are worshipped by the head of the family. The non¬ 
existence at Kuotola of a separate official, Kudam naeJce (the priest of 
the back-yard), whose function it is to propitiate the Sima Bonga and 
Bahre Bonga , may be due to the fact that this and the adjoining villages 
are situated on an open dahga land. There are no jungles in the village 
outskirts here to shelter them. They may, however, reside in the small 
jungles within the village boundary, and be propitiated by the ojha 
guru or medicine-man, if necessary. 

The names of Orak’ Bonga and Abge Bonga are kept secret by a Santal 
till the time of his death when he whispers them to his eldest son. There 
are two reasons for this. If the names are disclosed, other bongos might 
get jealous on account of the special preference exhibited by the family, 
and cause it harm. Again, should women come to know these names, 
some of them might seduce the bonga through their feminine charm, 
exercise evil influence over them, and make them work mischief to the 
detriment of the welfare of the family. Practitioners of witchcraft are 
specially suspected of possessing the power of seducing the bongos . As 
it is difficult to ascertain who is a doer of witchcraft, and who is not, 
it is thought better to be careful about all women. 

The pantheon of bongos is elastic enough to include within its fold 
some Hindu deities. This is shown by the case of the worship of the 
Hindu goddess Kali in Kuotola, where only two images of this goddess 
are to be seen, one at the house of the resident Hindu blacksmith, and 
the other at the house of a Santal named Kala Mor$(}i. The way in 
which Kala adopted the worship of Kali throws some light on the process 
of Hinduization. Kala’s children were suffering from chronic illness. 
In order to discover the cause of this illness, he consulted a diviner, 
who told him that his father, while in the Santal Parganas, started to 

1 See Chapter III, p. 47. 
8 See Chapter III, p. 46. 



worship Kali but abandoned the worship after a few years. This neglect, 
he was informed, enraged Kali, who had thereupon turned on the cul¬ 
prit’s grandchildren. To get rid of this illness, he was instructed to 
continue his father’s worship of Kali, performing the necessary cere¬ 
monies at least once every five years. 

The image of Kali , in the house of Kala, was made by a Hindu, a 
member of the Dom, a caste of basket-makers, cultivators and labour¬ 
ers, who lives in the nearby village of Bhubondanga, for Rs. 9 or $3*60. 
The frame of the image is of bamboo and straw, and plastered with mud, 
and painted black, with a red tongue. The worship, at which a goat is 
offered as a sacrifice, takes place on the new moon of Aglian 
(November-December), and is performed by the local medicine-man. 
The village priest has nothing to do with it, as Kali is an alien deity. 
Santal band-players are hired from the village of Ruppur, about six 
miles away. The villagers come to see the worship, dance in front of 
the house, and all are served rice-beer. 

When the ceremony is over, the image is immersed in a nearby pond. 
After about five days, when the mud has been washed away, the straw 
base of the image is brought back to the house. Every evening the 
womenfolk of the house burn incense before the straw-form for about a 
half an hour, and, in accordance with the pattern of Hindu worship, a 
lighted lamp is also placed there. In 1945 the frame of the image was 
placed in the north-eastern corner of the open compound after the rite 
of immersion, but by the end of 1946 a small hut had been built in that 
corner for housing the goddess Kali , and is called Kali ghor or House of 
Kali . 

From the foregoing it is apparent that the Santal live not only in 
their human tribal society, but in a greater society consisting of super¬ 
natural beings as well. The traditional Santal greater society com¬ 
prises Hot , i*e., man or the Santal; fhdlcur, the Supreme Being; the 
Bongo #; and non-human monstrous beings. 

These four orders of beings, especially the first three, are in constant 
interaction with each other. The behaviour of one cannot be under¬ 
stood apart from the others. The supernatural beings are an intimate 
part of Santal social life. That is why it is important to bear in mind 
the existence of the greater society, and the interaction between the 
different orders of beings. This traditional greater society has now 
been invaded by the intrusion of alien human elements like landlords, 
money-lenders, and government officials. 



— 2 — 

As Thdhur or Cando is a good God and does not intervene in thfr 
daily life of the Santal, they are not greatly concerned about him. Every 
Santal must, however, perform at least one sacrifice to the High God 
in his life time. This sacrifice, known as jom sim, consists of an offer¬ 
ing of two goats, or a goat and a sheep. The ceremony of Kutam dangra ,* 
wherein a cow is sacrificed, and which usually follows jomsim, is not 
performed in this region, however, because of the influence of Hindu 
belief which forbids cows to be killed. Apart from the sacrifice of jom¬ 
sim, the High God is invoked on all important occasions like marriage, 
divorce, and readmitting an ostracized person into Santal society. 

The greatest influence on Santal social life is exercised by the bongas, 
which, as malevolent spirits actively intervening in human affairs, 
must be regularly propitiated by sacrifices. The sacrifice held to be 
essential in keeping the bongas in good humour is a blood offering, since 
the sight of blood is believed to soothe them. The animals usually 
sacrificed in this area are fowls, pigs, and goats. Fowls are the most 
common offerings. 

The intimate interrelationship between the Santal and their bongas 
is concretely manifested in numerous ceremonial observances which 
are inextricably bound up with their economic activities as well as the 
critical periods in the life cycle of the individual. The most important 
annual ceremonies are linked up with different stages in cultivation. 
The Santal of Kuotola and adjoining villages perform the five important 
annual festivals, that have been named 2 , the mold sim , the sohrae , the 
salcrat , 3 the mdgh sim , and the baha. The pattern of these annual 
festivals may be illustrated by describing th ecerok* sim , as performed 
in Kuotola. On the morning of the day of the rite, the village messenger 
collects sacrificial fowls and rice from every house. The village priest 
bathes in a pond, and together with the people of the village goes to the 
nearby danga land where a circular space is cleared and plastered with a 
mixture of purifying cowdung and water. Sindur or vermilion is put 
in five magic circles drawn by the priest on the cleaned ground. A 
little arwa or sun-dried rice is placed in five small heaps in these circles. 
These are meant for the five national deities, Mar an Burn, Morceko, 
Jahcer era , Gosae era , and Pargana Bong a. Fowls are made to eat a 
grain of rice from each heap, and then sacrificed. The priest utters 

1 See Chapter III, p. 49. 

3 See Chapter III, p. 49, 

8 See Chapter III, p. 48. 



incantations ( mantar) for the national deities, and then salutes each 
of them with his hands joined, kneeling on one leg, with the palms and 
fingers of both hands touching each other. He raises them near his 
forehead, and bows to each of the five deities. After this is finished, the 
fowls that were sacrificed are cooked with rice as a sort of stew, and 
eaten by the villagers. Except for the wife of the priest, women are 
not permitted to partake of this sacrificial meat. Even their presence 
at the place of worship is tabooed. After the sacrificial feast is over, 
the people return to the village, and gather at the house of the priest 
who serves them rice-beer. Then the people disperse, to continue drink¬ 
ing in various houses, singing and dancing the entire night. 

Sohrae, the harvest festival, is the largest and merriest festival of 
the SaQtal. Sakrat is celebrated by hunting and offering rice-cakes to 
the ancestral spirits. The days of sohrae are generally so timed that 
the last or fifth day falls immediately before the day of sakrat , thereby 
prolonging it by one day. 

Mdgh sim 1 has retained its socio-political importance in the village 
community of Kuotola of being the time when contracts of service in 
the village, mainly of bagals or cowherds, are terminated and new agree- 
ments entered into. Every male member of the village is counted during 
Mdgh sim , and a portion of the communal feast reserved for him. Even 
if a member happens to be a suckling baby, his portion will be eaten by 
the grown-up members of his family. As the village community no 
longer owns land, villagers cannot ceremonially return their lands to 
the pancdyat. But the pancdyat officials ceremonially return their 
offices, and the village community, with equal ceremony and except 
in special instances, requests them to resume their duties. 

In their economic relations with non-Santal peoples, the Santal have 
adopted the prevalent Bengali year as the measure of time. But in 
their intra-village socio-political and ceremonial life, they have retained 
the traditional Santal year based on lunar months, the end of which is 
marked by Mdgh sim. 

The spring festival of baha, held in the month of Phdlgun (February- 
March), celebrates the beginning of the Santal new year. On this occa¬ 
sion, young men and women drench each other, in sport, with jars of 
water. Unlike their Bengali Hindu neighbours, who also have a similar 
spring festival, they never use coloured water. Water coloured in red 
is especially avoided, since red is too like the vermilion which is essential 
in the mafriage ritual. 

1 Se ^ Chapter III, pp. 49-50. 



The other annual festivals, mentioned in our discussion of the Santal 
religious heritage, 1 are not observed by the Santal of this region. The 
Joss of interest in the festivals of hariar sim 2 iri gundli nauwai> 2 and 
ianthar 2 — all connected with agriculture—may be due to the decreas¬ 
ing importance of cultivation in Santal economy, and the growth of 
share-cropping and casual labour as a means of livelihood. In the case 
of the iri gundli nauwai , there is an obvious reason in the fact that iri 
and gundli— jungle millets—are not cultivated here. The abandon¬ 
ment of the festivals of chat a, jatra, and pata, which were borrowed 
from the Hindus, may be due to the fact that a steadily lower level of 
subsistence has reduced the zest for life. 

The Santal communicate with their national deities through the 
medium of naeke or the village priest, who knows the proper ritual pro¬ 
cedure, and represents the entire village before the great gods. The 
naeke always conducts worship for the public good. Communication 
with the hohgas of village boundary and outskirts is carried on, at Kuo- 
tola, by the qjha guru or medicine-man, who always acts for private 
individual ends. The family deities are directly worshipped by family 
heads. Of the national deities, Marah Buru is the only one who can 
also be worshipped by individual families. As Kuotola and the ad¬ 
joining villages do not possess a jan guru t the more powerful of the two 
types of Santal diviners who function for private ends, the people of this 
locality, if in need of consulting such a person, usually go to one in the 
Santal Parganas. 

The usual techniques of communication with supernatural beings, 
found at Kuotola, as throughout Santal territory, are prayer, sacrifices, 
mantar or incantation, possession, and divination. The first three 
techniques are generally employed by the village priest, and the last 
three by the medicine-man. Possession, the most direct method of 
communication, in which the personality of the individual is displaced 
by that of the bohga who speaks through him, can happen to all Santal, 
But the medicine-man is specially susceptible to it. 

—3 —— 

The conceptions held by the Santal regarding the creation of the 
world, the dynamic powers of the universe, and their interrelationship 
have already been dealt with. In this section will be discussed their 
speculations about the problems of life and death, and the remedial 
measures adopted by them to cope with these problems. 

1 See Chapter III, pp. 49-50. 

8 See Chapter III, p. 49. 



ThdJcur give3 every individual, at the time of birth, a certain span 
of life, which, along with whatever destiny may be in store for him (or 
her), is written on his (or her) forehead by Bidhi and Bidlianta , two 
supernatural beings employed by the High God. As long as this allot¬ 
ted span of life lasts the individual cannot die or be killed. Death comes 
only at the end of this allotted span, and means the departure of the 
spirit or soul from the body. But life is continued in lianapuri (that 
world) as opposed to noapuri (this world). Hanapuri consists of two 
parts, serma or akasoF and norok kund. The virtuous go to senna , 
and lead an easy life of tilling, hunting, eating and drinking. The 
wicked go to norok kund to suffer. 

Santal philosophy has not led to a passive acceptance of the theory 
of predestination and the interfering action of the bohgas and doers of 
witchcraft. Remedial measures have been developed to cope with 
problems raised by supernatural agencies or the magical power of human 
beings. Ojha guru , in Kuotola and the neighbourhood, (and jan guru 
who are still to be found in the Santal Parganas and, sometimes con¬ 
sulted by the Santal of Blrbhum), are specialists in solving such problems. 

The special techniques used by the diviners, grappling with a case 
of disease and misfortune, are divination, bul mayarn sacrifice, mantar, 
jharniy and charms or amulets. The object of divination is to discover 
the responsible agent. There are several methods of divination, the 
principal one being sunum bonga . 

In sunum bonga a few sal leaves and a little mustard oil are employed. 
The ojha gazes at the leaves intently one after another ; then takes one 
leaf and puts oil marks on it, each drop of oil-mark standing for a sup¬ 
posed possible cause of disease or other misfortune. Then he rubs each 
oil-mark separately while uttering a mantar or incantation. After 
finishing the mantar , the ojha blows on the leaf. A second leaf is put 
on the one marked with oil, and they are rubbed against each other. 
After saluting the leaves and muttering another mantar , he puts the 
leaves on the ground. After a while, the leaves are picked up, held 
toward the sun or sky, and the covering leaf is removed. The results 
are then judged according to the way in which the oil spots are found 
in the different parts of the leaf marked off by ribs, veins, and creases 

If divination shows the responsible agent to be a doer of witchcraft, 
Bhe is commanded to remove the cause of distress. In former times, 
if she refused or failed to do so, the strongest social sanction, i.e., bitlaha 
or expulsion from society, could be exercised against her. But 



nowadays the putting into effect of bitlaha is difficult. 5 Moreover, the 
strength of the traditional belief in witchcraft is on the decrease at 
Kuotola and adjoining villages. This may be due to the increasing 
acquaintance of the Santal with more rational explanations of disease 
causation prevailing among the neighbouring non-Santal peoples, special¬ 
ly in the institutes of Santiniketan and $riniketan, where modern allo¬ 
pathic dispensaries have been established. The increasing economic 
importance of women among share-croppers and day-labourers also 
tends to weaken the idea that many women are secret practitioners of 
witchcraft waiting to cause harm to society. 

If the interfering cause is found to be a bongo, , the ojha guru proceeds 
to offer bul mayam sacrifice, consisting of sun-dried rice soaked with a 
little blood pricked from his body. The object of this sacrifice is to 
appease the interfering bonga so that he will do no further mischief. 
The ojha reinforces this appeasement policy by mantar or incantations 
to his special bohgas. Ojhas have a number of special bohgas , in addi¬ 
tion to the common bohgas worshipped by all Santal. These mantars 
are an appeal to the special deities of the ojha to exercise their power 
so as to force the mischief-making bonga to desist from doing further 
mischief. There are also mantars meant for the interfering bonga which 
apply pressure by dint of the force inherent in the words used. These 
mantars not only entreat, but also coax and threaten. 

In some cases, e.g., poisoning due to snake-bite, convulsions and 
fainting, the ojha uses a technique called jharni which is sung to a melody, 
and not spoken like a mantar. It is a method of gentle persuasion, 
unlike mantar which depends on force. There are also a number of 
charms or amulets used to counteract the evil influence of supernatural 
and human agencies. 

The Santal do not depend entirely on spiritual methods for solving 
their problems of illness. They have followed the method of observa¬ 
tion, and developed a medicine of their own. The ojha is not only a 
spiritual healer, but also a medical healer. In treating a patient, he 
reinforces his spiritual methods by administering medicines made from 
forest herbs, roots, and innumerable other things. As forests are lack¬ 
ing in the vicinity of Kuotola, many of these medicines have to be 
secured from the Santal Parganas. But the giving of medicine is 
generally preceded by saket, a vow to sacrifice some animal—a goat, 
pig, or fowl—to the special bonga of the ojha , if the patient is cured. 

1 See Chapter VI, p. 95 



For these services the ojha is remunerated by a small sum of about eight 
annas or sixteen cents by the family of the patient. In serious cases of 
illness, the remuneration may be Rs. lj or even 2J (about a dollar), 

Santal ideas about the causation of disease may be summed up by 
saying that there are three principal causes,—supernatural, human, 
and physical.' The action of bongas and witchcraft come under the 
first two categories respectively. The physical causes may be said to 
include the six natural causes as described before. 1 There is no hard 
and fast line of demarcation between these three categories of disease 
causation. For a doer of witchcraft may work through certain bongas 
to cause disease. Again, a bonga may be at the back of the apparent- 
physical causes. This might explain the fact that ojhas always combine 
the spiritual and medical methods in treating a patient, instead of de¬ 
pending on one or the other alone. 

If the ojha guru fails to solve a problem raised by misfortune or 
disease, a number of explanations are offered by the people as well 
as the gurus. One is that the power of the responsible bonga is much 
greater than that of the ojha . In the case of death of a person by a 
disease, an additional explanation is heard that the appropriate medicine, 
provided by Thdkur for such a disease, has not been found. A third 
explanation offered by an ojha guru for his failure to save a person from 
death rests on the belief that the span of life allotted by Thdkur has 
come to an end. The last point may be illustrated by a statement 
made by Kali Hemrom , the ojha guru of Kuotola. He said one day 
that he could cure any case of snake bite, except a person bitten, not 
by just a snake, but by kdl, i.e., death itself. On being asked how he 
would know whether it was a snake or kdl that had bitten, he replied, 
“ If a person is bitten in the hand between the index and the middle 
finger, then it is kdl that has bitten ; the life span of the person is finish¬ 
ed. And nothing can be done about it.” 

In spite of these explanations, the position of the ojha guru at Kuotola 
is being undermined by the contact of the Santal with other forms of 
medicine-men. The case of Barsa Murmu of Kuotola illustrates this 
point. In 1945 he had been suffering from a sore in the leg. He first 
consulted the village ojha guru who treated him for about three months 
without any success. Instead of remaining satisfied with the traditional 
explanations of the failure of an ojha guru, Barsa tried the medicine 
given by a Mohammedan physician of neighbouring village. This 

1 Se* Chapter III, p. 51. 



again did not help him. Then he planned to consult the Hindu allopath 
in charge of the modern medical dispensary at Sriniketan. The very'' 
fact that Barsa and other Santal of the locality have begun to go to the 
modern allopathic dispensary at Srlniketan for treatment is an indica¬ 
tion of the gradual loss of confidence in their traditional medicine-man. 

The institution of ojha guru shows a great deal of Hindu influence. 
The word guru is a Sanskrit word meaning preceptor, while according 
to tradition, the Santal learned the art from a person called Kambru 
or Kamru guru who is invoked in many of the mantars or incantations. 
Again, many of the mantars are in a corrupt Bengali or Hindi, and many 
of the deities invoked in the mantars are Hindu deities, e.g., Dharti 
mae (from Hindu Dharitn , the Earth goddess), Parbati, 1 Kalimae , Maha - 
bir y etc. The very word mantar y which refers to magical formulas 
essential to ajhas, is derived from Sanskrit mantra. There can be no 
doubt about the great influence of Hinduism on ojhaism. 

1 Sanskrit Par vatu 


Santal Acculturation 

As a result of contact with the impinging forces of Hinduism, British 
Government, Christianity, Santiniketan and Sriniketan, described in 
Chapter IV, traditional Santal culture has everywhere been undergoing 
transformation. These changes will now be detailed in the light of the 
data of our preceding chapters, moving from one aspect of culture to the 
next in accordance with the earlier treatment. 

, P rocesses of cultural change found among the Santal of the 
district of Santal Parganas are also in operation among the Santal of 
other areas including Blrbhum. There are, however, certain variations 
m the direction of changes to be noted that reflect differences in local 
conditions. The principal changes taking place in the Santal culture of 
the Santal Parganas will be described below. 

The depletion, reservation, and individual ownership of forests has 
been leading to a shortage of wood, and hence a change in house types. 
The Hindu method of constructing houses with mud walls is being 
adopted. Paddy straw has been replacing sauri grass for thatching 
roofs. Comparatively well-to-do elements among the Santal are also 
coming to use tiles for roofing, and they are also equipping their 
houses with door-frames having wooden bars and padlocks, which 
they have taken over from the Hindus. Domestic utensils are also 
changing. Plates and cups of leaves are being partially replaced by 
brass plates and cups bought from the neighbouring Hindu markets. 

Since the Hindus of Bihar do not eat meat, some Santal, specially 
those who have close economic relations with upper caste Hindus, are 
beginning to give up eating beef, buffalo-meat, pork, and fowls,’and 
take to vegetarianism. The drive which motivates this is the desire 
to gain the esteem of their Hindu neighbours, and thus attain highei 
social status. This is accomplished by a tendency to add certain Hindu 
milk products like payas or rice pudding to their diet. The chewing 

of betel nuts in intervals between meals is another Hindu trait that has 
been adopted. 

The food supply of the Santal generally has been affected by the 
reduction and reservation of forests. Wild fruits, roots, tubers, and 
game, which held an important place in Santal diet, are now difficult 
to obtain. As a result, their diet is becoming increasingly inadequate in 
quantity, as well as in quality. Likewise the excise policy of the 



Government has led to a reduction in the quantity and quality of their 
favourite drinks, handi and paura. 

Christian Santal are further inhibited from drinking handi by the 
insistence of the missionaries on their not indulging in the use of liquor. 
This has encouraged the acceptance of tea-drinking, and with it the 
consumption of milk and sugar. The slight amounts of milk and sugar 
taken with tea, however, do not compensate for the loss of nutrition 
through abstention from drinking handi. 

The habit of smoking machine-made cigarettes is being accepted, 
though it is not yet popular. The Hindu custom of smoking with a 
huka or water-pipe is also coming into use. 

Cotton sarees, such as are worn by Hindu women, have been accepted 
by the Santal women. In accordance with Hindu custom, some Santal 

widows are beginning to wear white sarees without any borders, and 


go without ornaments, as a mark of the austerity of the Hindu widow’s 
life. Christian Santal women are adopting the use of European jackets 
and blouses. Many young men are found wearing khaki shorts and 

Such weapons as battle axes and spears are rapidly becoming obsolete. 
Matchlock guns are eagerly acquired whenever they are available, since 
their greater efficacy in hunting has made them prized articles here as 
among other aboriginal tribes in India. Government license restrictions 
and the cost of modern guns make it impossible for the Santal to acquire 
these. The bow and arrow thus still remains the principal weapon used 
in hunting. 

Santal economy has been undergoing rapid transformation, not 
only in the relative importance of the traditional occupations, collecting, 
hunting, fishing, and cultivation, but also in the introduction of new 
ways of obtaining a livelihood. As collecting and hunting have decreased 
in importance, agriculture has gained a place of economic significance. 
Fishing, however, has not only retained its earlier place in Santal economy, 
but may even be said to be playing a slightly more important role 
because of the gradual acceptance by some of the Hindu practice of 
rearing fish in artificial ponds. 

The crops cultivated have changed. Though rice is still the staple, 
guhurn or wheat, jao or barley, beans, and tobacco are being more and 
more cultivated, whereas iri, a kind of jungle millet, is not grown as 



Increasing indebtedness, tbe loss of land due to arrears of rent and 
interest, and consequent economic hardships have been compelling the 
Santal to leave their homes in large groups for work in tea plantations, 
railway construction, coal and mica mines, rice mills, and steel factories. 

The Permanent Land Settlement Act of 1793, which as we have 
seen changed the system of land tenure, replaced communal ownership 
of land by individual ownership. This has reduced the dependence 
of the individual on the village community, and consequently undermined 
the authority of the latter. 

The traditional rules of inheritance of land are showing a tendency 
towards change. The rule debarring women from inheriting land has 
already been circumvented by the system of securing a ghardi jawae or 
“ house bridegroom.” 1 Recently, opinions have been expressed by 
some educated Santal favouring the introduction of a change in the law 
of inheritance so as to give daughters the right of inheriting land directly 
where there are no sons, and in preference to more remote male agnates, 
and to give widows the right of maintenance from a deceased husband’s 

Within the family, the individual is gradually acquiring a sense of 
independence. This growth of independence in the individual may 
be related to the growth of the individual ownership of land, and the 
opening up of new avenues of employment. This has resulted in the 
individual no longer being dependent on either the village community 
or the family. 

The custom of members of a household to salute each other every 
morning when leaving the house is no longer observed. This may be 
due to a diminution in the dangers of working in forests infested by 
dangerous beasts, since the chances of a man’s returning home in safety 
are much greater now than before. The manner of salutation is also 
undergoing change. It is regarded as sufficient if a person bends before 
his father or other superior, instead of kneeling. 

Witchcraft as a cause of divorce is gradually falling into desuetude. 
This is probably due to the increasing economic importance of the woman, 
and to the gradual weakening of the belief in witchcraft through contact 
with other belief-systems. The economic factor, however, seems to 
be a greater force, since a man will today think twice before driving 
away his wife, who is an important aid in the maintenance of the family, 
on a suspicion of witchcraft. The woman, that is, has become economi¬ 
cally too valuable to be lightly divorced. 



The political organization of the Santal has been considerably changed 
as a result of governmental intervention. Mdnjhi and pargana, the 
headman of a village community and a group of village communities 
respectively, are now responsible, not to the people, but to the Govern¬ 
ment. The democratic basis of Santal political organization has been 
replaced by an element of irresponsibility that arises from the transfer of 
controls. This change has been followed by a concomitant change in the 
functions of these officials. They are now entrusted with the collection of 
revenues, and the performance of police duties on behalf of the Govern¬ 
ment. Under the same system, a new well-to-do socio-economic class 
of officially supported mdnjhis and parganas has emerged, thereby 
leading to the stratification of this hitherto homogeneous society. 

But the effect of the cessation of political rule of India by Britain 
since August 15, 1947, and of the introduction of the new Constitution 
of India since January 26, 1950, has been to restore to a great extent 
the democratic character of Santal political organization and widen its 
basis. This has been due to the fact that the new Constitution has not 
only introduced universal adult franchise, but also reserved special 
seats in the Central as well as the State Legislature for the tribal 
peoples including the Santal. As a result of the general elections held 
in 1950, about 5 Santal have been returned to the Central Legislature, 
13 to the Bihar Legislative Assembly, 8 to the West Bengal Legislative 
Assembly, and 3 to the Orissa Legislative Assembly. This situation 
has given rise to a new class consisting of members of legislatures in 
Santal (as in other tribal) socio-political structure with increasing in¬ 
fluence in the country. 

The basic unit of Santal society, the villge community, still functions, 
even though its hold on the villagers has been weakened. The authority 
of the village pancayat has been reduced by the impact of external 
economic and legal forces. 

With the weakening of the village community and the pancayat 
organization, traditional social sanctions have understandably been losing 
strength. The growth of individual land-ownership, as against communal 
control, the development of the means of communication in the country 
and the opening up of new avenues of employment in distant plantations, 
mines, and factories have lessened the effectiveness of bitlaha , or expulsion 
from society, the most severe form of social sanction among the Santal, 
since, as we have .seen, a person can defy bitlaha by running away to 
seek his livelihood elsewhere. 



As a reaction to the impinging forces, the Adivdsl movement 1 has 
fcreen developing certain positive values among the Santal. The primary 
aim of this movement is not only to unite the entire Santal people into 
one political group, but also to bring together all the aboriginal peoples 
of Chota Nagpur. As we have seen, this movement has been rapidly 
spreading in the Santal Parganas and other areas where the Santal live 
in large compact groups. 

Santal religion has come under the impact of Hinduism, Moha¬ 
mmedanism, and Christianity, but its present-day forms show that Hindu- 
isna has had the greatest influence. Christianity comes next in this 
regard, while Islam has had practically no effect at all. Many Hindu 
deities like Rama, Hari , Parvatl , Kail , etc., have been adopted and 
given a place in the Santal pantheon of bong as or spirits. Hindu festi¬ 
vals like Rata and Cliata porob 2 have been added to the cycle of Santa! 
annual festivals. But the adoption of a few Hindu deities and festivals 
has not changed the basic character of Santal religion, which has been 
retained practically intact. 

The Hindu name for the Santal High God, Tkokur, has been applied 
to the Santal counterpart Cando. According to Bodding, the real 
name of fhokur may have been forgotten, for the word Thdkur, which 
is of Sanskrit origin, cannot be the real name for the Santal Supreme 
Being. 3 And like the Santal gurus , he seems to hold that Cando Bonga, 
has been wrongly confused with 'Fkdkur* * 

It may be suggested here that this need not be a case of confusion. 
An explanation for this so-called confusion may be found in the assump¬ 
tion that Cando Bonga, Sin Bonga and other names standing for the 
Sun God have been syncretized, and not confused, with the Hindu word 
Thakur which has the same connotation of a Supreme Being. The basis- 
for this assumption lies in the fact that the Santal use all these terms 
indiscriminately while invoking the Supreme Being on their most solemn 
occasions in life. 8 On all such occasions the object of invocation is the 
Sun God, and those who invoke him always face the east and salute the 
sun. In other words, the original High God Cando (i.e., the Sun) has 
been later on syncretized with the Hindu fhakur, both having the attri¬ 
butes of a Supreme Being. Thus the word bonga was perhaps added to 
Cando after the borrowing of bonga worship from the allied Mun^a 

1 See Chapter IV, p. 63. 

8 See Chapter III, p. 49. 

9 L.S.S. O’Malley —Santal Parganas, p. 143. 

* See Chapter III, pp. 47. 

* See Chapter VII, p. 102. 

10 ASI/54 & 



tribe. It was also then that the name Sin Bonga , who is the High 
God of the Mu$da, was syncretized with Oando Bonga. The bias of 
the Santal gurus in favour of J'kdhur may be explained by the fact that 
their special profession of shamanism, divination, and magic shows a 
greater influence of Hinduism than other aspects of Santal culture. 

The Hindu deity Rama is worshipped by the Kharwar sects under 
the name Ram Cando. This is another case of retention through 
syncretism. The syncretization of Rama and Cando has given rise to 
a new name Ram Cando for a deity having the attributes of the old 
High God. This mechanism of syncretism is thus seen to have facili¬ 
tated the retention of old traits through the process of reinterpretation 
of the new. 

The motivation for borrowing Hindu deities can be ascribed to the 
hardships suffered by the Santal as a result of the expansion of alien 
peoples into their territories, which shook their belief in the efficacy 
of the tribal deities, and made the worship of the gods of the more fortu¬ 
nately placed alien neighbours seem logical to them. This point is 
illustrated by the growth of the Kharwar movement since the rebellion 
of 1855, at a time when the destitution and sufferings of the Santal 
reached an extremely high level. The three Kharwar sects have been 
responsible for the acceptance of many Hindu practices, as a result of 
which, as we have seen, a new Hindu caste has been emerging from am6ng 
the Santal. 

The influence of Hinduism on Santal magico-medical culture-complex 
or ojhaism has been described. 1 This apparent influence of Hinduism 
is so great that Bodding and other writers have been led to believe that 
the Santal have borrowed the whole institution of ojhaism from the 
Hindus. A closer scrutiny of the circumstances, not only at the present 
time but also in the light of the cultural history of India, reveals the 
operation of a different process. It is well-known that the Yedic Aryans 
entered India about 2,000 B.C., and that during the period called the 
Vedic Age (c. 2,000— c. 1,400 B.C.) the earliest existing literature, the 
four Vedas, were composed. The earlier Vedas are full of hymns and 
prayers without any reference to black magic. But in Atharva-Veda, 
the latest of the Vedas, there are many texts relating to black magic, 
sorcery, and witchcraft. The inescapable inference from this fact would 
seem to be that as the Vedic Aryans were expanding eastward in the 
Ganga basin, and coming into greater and greater contact with the 
Dravidian and Pre-Dravidian aboriginals, the former wer& borrowing 
these ideas from the latter. 

1 See Chapter VII, p. 107. 



The above inference about the borrowing of magical ideas seems 
to be justified by the presence of many hymns in Atharva-Veda itself, 
which clearly indicate the existence of sorcery among the pre-Aryan 
aboriginal inhabitants who obviously were resisting the eastward ex¬ 
pansion of the Aryans. In these hymns, the Aryans are earnestly praying 
to their shining deities, Agni (fire), Indra (god of thunder) and others, 
to use their mighty power in destroying the sorcerers and demons, who 
are described as “false worshippers” and “flesh-eaters.” 1 

With the subjugation of the aboriginal peoples, their incorporation 
into the caste structure of Hindu society, and increasing intermixture, 
the magical ideas of the aborigines were more and more adopted by the 
masses of Hindus. They did not merely accept these ideas, but developed 
them greatly and in particular ways. This development received a 
great stimulus specially since the eighth century AJD. when Buddhism, 
ousted from its privileged position, rapidly merged with esoteric aspects 
of Hinduism, and formed secret cults. These cults further developed 
magical ideas and techniques that were then reborrowed by the Santal 
and other aboriginal tribes who retired into hills and forests rather than 
submit to the conquering Aryans. So the culture complex of magic 
(in the form of ojha- science) was lent and reborrowed, came back where 
it started; but in the process of diffusion and rediffusion it gathered 
new experiences, and underwent novel changes. 

In recent times, the profession of jan guru , the more powerful of the 
Santal diviners, as has been indicated, has almost disappeared as a 
result of government legislation. Ojha guru is still intact in Santal 
villages, though changes are apparent in certain superficial details of 
divination. For example, in divination by the use of leaves and oil, 
a mirror is sometimes employed in the place of oil. 

The belief in witchcraft, though still a living one, has been affected 
by the circumstances of contact. Murders on the grounds of witch¬ 
craft are becoming rarer, while experience with medical science, through 
hospitals and dispensaries being established in Santal territories, has 
tended to weaken the belief in witchcraft as the cause of illness. None¬ 
theless, such questionings of traditional concepts as to the causation of 
disease are still largely surface matters, and have been taken over by 
no more than a small section of the people. 

By 1931 contact with Christianity had resulted in the conversion 
of 24,035 Santal. As has been said, missionaries have forbidden the 
Christian Santal to drink rice-beer, or to participate in certain social 

1 Atharva-Veda Safihitd, Book I, hymn 7, verse 7 ; Book VIII, hymn 3, verse 13. 



dances. Burial of the dead, in place of cremation, has also been urged 
on the converts. Yet, the Christian Santal retain most traditional customs 
that are not in direct conflict with the doctrines of Christianity. For 
example, the rule of sib exogamy is followed by them. The acceptance 
of the doctrine of Holy Trinity has not meant eradication of their belief 
in their High God Cando, which has been retained through direct rein¬ 
terpretation, whereby Cando is held to include all the three members of 
the Trinity. This reinterpretation is evident when a Christian Santal 
is heard to sing “Cando the Father, Cando the Son, Cando the Soul or 

This process of reinterpretation is extended to bring together ele¬ 
ments from all the three religions, especially in the case of those Santal 
who have come in contact with both Hinduism and Christianity. This 
is clearly manifested in the following song composed by Bhagrit, the 
leader of the Kharwar movement about 1871, and quoted by Bodding : 
“He is. 

The Three Cando one Cando. 

He is the Ram Cando of the kings, 

The Wheel (i.e., round) Cando of mankind.” 1 

Here, elements from three religions, Santal, Hindu and Christian, 
are syncretized and reinterpreted. Santal Cando is syncretized with 
Hindu Rama. Cando has been reinterpreted as the Holy Trinity. 
Finally, Ram Cando has been conceived as encompassing the reinter¬ 
preted Cando of the Christians. The word ‘wheel’ in the above quota¬ 
tion would seem to refer to the calcra or wheel of Vishnu, the god of 
preservation, of whom the Hindu deity Rama is regarded as an avatdra 
or incarnation. Bhagrit, in this poem, would thus appear to have desired 
to influence all sections of the Santal, aboriginal, Hindu, and Christian. 

The proselytizing of Christian missionaries and Mohammedans in 
India has recently given rise to contra-acculturative organizations 
among a section of the non-Santal Hindus whose influence has begun 
to be felt by the Santal as well. “Hindu Mission” and “Bharat Seva- 
sram Sangha” are two such organizations in Bengal, which have been 
carrying on the policy of reconverting those Hindus who adopted 
Christianity or Islam either voluntarily or as a result of the application 
of force. These two organizations, especially the latter one, have also 
reconverted many Christian Santal into Hinduism. A number of abori¬ 
ginal Santal, settled as agriculturists in the northern districts of Bengal, 
have likewise been converted to Hinduism through this new movement. 

1 P.O. Bodding—“The Kharwar Movement among the Santala,” p. 231. 



With the reduction of Santali to writing, and the establishment of 
primary schools, the degree of literacy has been gradually increasing 
throughout Santal territory. In many places modern high schools have 
been established with government grants-in-aid. A number of young 
men, especially those who come from the newly-created socio-economic 
class of the headmen of village communities and village groups, have 
gone further with their education and are attending various colleges. 
The gradual spread of literacy and higher education is indicated by the 
publication, in the newspapers of Bengal and Bihar, of occasional ad¬ 
vertisement requiring the services of Santal graduates for teaching 
positions in high schools. Recently at least two Santal young men are 
known to have had their post-graduate studies in the U.S.A. 

Yet it must be recognized that only a fringe of Santal society has 
been touched by this spread of literacy. Though statistics are not 
available, it may be said that the percentage of literacy among the Santal 
is much lower than that prevailing among the total population in India, 
which is 16*6 per cent according to the 1951 census. 

The changes that have been taking place in the Santali language is 
a problem which, for detailed analysis, need investigation by competent 
linguists. The main directions of change may, however, be indicated 
here. Contact of Santali with Indo-Aryan languages has already re¬ 
sulted in the incorporation of many words of Sanskrit origin. For 
example, in addition to the word Thdhir for the High God, such terms 
as pancdyat for the village council, and janam in janam chatidr (birth 
rites) are derived from Sanskrit. At about the time qf contact with 
the British, Santali was already divided into 'standard’ or northern, 
and southern forms. 

Dialectic differentiation of Santali is still in process. 'Standard’ 
Santali is in contact with Hindi on the west and Bengali on the east ; 
and southern Santali with Oriya on the west and Bengali on the east. 
As a result of these contacts new dialects are coming into existence, in 
which Hindi, Oriya and Bengali words have a prominent place. The 
existing dialectic differences in both Santali and Bengali are likely to 
accentuate the divergence in lines of future development of the language, 
and cause the acculturation of Santali with Bengali to proceed in at 
least two principal directions. 

- 2 — 

Cultural changes among the Santakof Birbhum will now be briefly 
summarised. The Hindu type of house, with mud walls and roofs 
thatched w'ith paddy straw, has quite replaced the traditional Santal 



form. Windows have been introduced in one house, and floral designs 
decorate another at Kuotola. Though these latter changes are minor 
on&s, they adumbrate a new pattern in the material culture of this 
people. An old iron bedstead is to be found in one house in addition to 
the traditional beds made of bamboo or wood and rope ; leaf plates and 
cups are rarely used ; aluminium and enamel utensils of European intro¬ 
duction are more and more to be seen. 

Though new vegetables, such as potatoes and tomatoes, occasionally 
enter into Santal diet at Kuotola, the food situation has on the whole 
become worse. The proportion of meat and fish in the diet of the Santa! 
here, as elsewhere, has been reduced. 

The habit of drinking tea is gradually growing through Santiniketan 
and Srraiketan. The use of milk together with tea is removing the 
traditional aversion to milk-drinking. In one family ailing children 
are being given milk to drink by itself. The excise policy of the Govern¬ 
ment has affected the Santal of Blrbhum in the same way as those in 
the Santal Parganas. The reduction in the quantity and quality of 
native rice-beer and other drinks, consequent upon this excise policy, 
has meant more than just deprivation of drink for the Santal, since 
these beverages have nutritive values that supplemented their diet. 

Santal women tend more and more to follow the dress pattern of the 
neighbouring Hindu women. One young man of Balipara has begun to 
wear khaki half-pants and shirts. To-day the men cut their hair short 
like the people among whom they live. Cow-tail hairs, formerly used 
by women in tying their hair into knots, have been replaced by black 
ribbons purchased from visiting peddlers. 

In economic life, collecting has practically disappeared as an occupa¬ 
tion, while hunting and fishing have lost their former importance. The 
big annual hunt, Lo bir sendra, has been abandoned. Independent farming 
which was the principal means of gaining a livelihood, is also tending to 
lose its dominant position because of the gradual loss of land, and being 
replaced by share-cropping. As the number of share-croppers grows, 
it is becoming increasingly difficult to get sufficient land to maintain 
a family. Consequently one has to fall back on casual labour. As has 
been repeatedly pointed out, this kind of work has for some years been 
increasingly important in Santal economic life. Domestic service is 
another occupation of growing importance. The sale of rice-beer on an 
agency basis, which the headman of Kuotola follows, as a part-time 
occupation, is a distinct innovation. Weaving, too, is new, having been 
acquired by one Santal family of Kuotola from Srlniketan. One Santal 



young man of Balipara has also learned to do some carpentry work at 
&Iniketan. The traditional industry of oil-pressing has practically 

In spite of the reduction in importance of certain old, and the intro¬ 
duction of a number of new, occupations, cultivation still remains the 
chief source of living, though with a decreasing significance. The cultiva¬ 
tion of traditional crops, such as the jungle millets called iri and gundli, 
has been abandoned, while new crops like potatoes and tomatoes have 
been adopted. The customary cow-dung manure is being supplemented, 
in some cases, by compost manure. 

The replacement of the communal ownership of land by individual 
ownership, resulting from the change in land tenure, has led to the loss 
of the economic function of the paranik> which was to look after the 
periodioal redistribution of village lands. From the change in land 
tenure, it has also followed that while the inheritance of land formerly 
meant only the inheritance of the usufructuary right, it now means that 
absolute ownership is handed down. 

With the loss of land and the decreasing opportunities for independent 
farming, the size of the family is decreasing, since share-cropping and 
casual labour are not conducive to the maintenance of large joint families. 
Day-labourers, in particular, deserting the joint families, are forming 
separate small autonomous households. 

In marriage, the young man and the girl are now given an opportunity 
of seeing each other, at least from a distance (if they are strangers), 
before final decision as to the match is taken by their parents. This 
change is a further index of the growing importance of the individual. 

The pon, or the pecuniary element in bride-wealth, has had a tendency 
to increase with the rising cost of living. This has been seen in the fact 
that during the period of twenty years following 1925 the amount of pon 
has been increased twice, first to 12 and then again to 14 rupees. The 
pon for a widow or a divorced woman has, during the same period, come 
to equal that for an unmarried girl. This indicates a change in social 
values, in that the earlier premium placed on virginity is giving way to 
the economic value of a woman as a worker and a source of income, in 
a situation of growing economic pressure. 

The fine for adultery with a married woman has increased. It was 
double the amount of pon in the Santal Parganas. At Kuotofa it is 4£ 
times. This is mainly due to the growing economic importance of the 
woman, but may also be partially caused by the fact that there is more 
mnnpv in circulation than there was before. ■ 



The larger units of Santal political organization have disappeared 
in the district of Birbhum. With the disappearance of the annual hunt, 
the highest assembly of Santal society, the Lo bir i which was also the 
supreme court of the people, has gone out of existence. The institutions 
of pargana and desmdnjhi, whereby groups of village communities are 
organized into a functioning political unit, likewise no longer exist. But 
a new, looser kind of institution is emerging in the form of the regular 
evening gathering of men at the liquor shop at Bandhgora. Moreover, 
through the efforts of Santiniketan and Srlniketan, the Santal here are 
gradually being drawn into the fold of a wider organization, embracing 
the Santal as well as the Bengali population of the region. The Brail- 
Bdlak organization, where the youth of Santal and other communities 
work together, is an example of this trend. 

Though the authority of the village pancayat over the individual 
members of a community has been reduced in Birbhum, as in the Santal 
Parganas, yet the village council may be said to be still strong in this 
region. At Kuo tola a new member of the pancayat , called bhogdar , 
has been added to the earlier conventional governing elements. 

Changes in the rites de passage are not noticeable, except that economic 
stringency has restricted the lavishness of feasts. This change is 
especially to be noted in marriage and death rites. As regards these 
latter, the increasing use of the river Kopai which is within easy reach 
of Kuotola, in place of the sacred but distant river Damodor, for the 
purpose of immersing bone fragments of the deceased may be remarked. 

Daily ' contact with Bengali-speaking peoples has made the Santal 
bilingual. Santiniketan and Srlniketan have been acting as agents for 
the dissemination of literacy through the medium of Bengali. A conti¬ 
nuing increase in the use of Bengali is to be anticipated. 

In the sphere of religion, the Hindu goddess Kali has found a place 
in the Santal pantheon of bongas at Kuotola. A number of festivals, 
such as the janthar (an offering of the first fruits of the winter rice crop), 
and the irigundli nauwai (an offering of the jungle millets, iri and gundli ), 
are no longer celebrated. The sacrifice of cows has likewise disappeared. 
The festival of magh sim has been modified in that the ceremonial return 
of lands to the village community by all its members is no longer possible, 
because of the displacement of communal ownership by individual tenure. 

The theory of predestination and the conception of serma or akasok ’ 
and norok kund, 1 found in Santal philosophy, in Birbhum as well as the 
Santal Parganas, was, most probably, borrowed from the Hindus in the 

1 See Chapter VII, p. 105. 



past. This inference seems logical when we remember that the words 
Bidhi and Bidhanta , which refer to two supernatural beings whose 
function it is to write on the forehead of an individual his or her destiny 
immediately after birth, are of Sanskrit origin. In borrowing the idea 
of a god of destiny from the Hindus, the Santal have conceived of Bidhi 
•and Bidhanta as entrusted by Thdkur , the High God, with the task of 
writing the destiny. The idea of the destiny being written also indicates 
the foreign origin of the theory of predestination. For, till about the 
middle of the nineteenth century the Santal did not have any writing 
at all. The words akasok ’, norok kund, and atma , jiu or jiwi (soul), 
used by the Santal, are also derived from Sanskrit. In borrowing the 
word akasok ’ and using it in the sense of a place where the virtuous go 
after death, the Santal have changed its meaning. But this change in 
• meaning, the result of a slight confusion, is quite understandable. For 
the Hindu akasa (sky), from which the Santal akasok ’ is derived, is the 
sphere where Hindu svarga (the place for gods and the virtuous) is located. 
The word serma is perhaps a Santali version of svarga. The inference 
is that the Santal have ignored the Hindu distinction between akasa 
and svarga, and applied the words akasok ’ and serma synonymously. 

Another point to be noted in this connection is that the Santal con¬ 
ception of dtmd (soul) departing from this body and going to serma or 
norok kund according to the action of the individual indicates a partial 
borrowing of the Hindu theory of the transmigration of soul. But the 
more complicated aspect of this theory, explaining how atman (individual 
soul) is reborn into another life, following one’s karma or action, and 
how this cycle of birth and rebirth proceeds till, through a long process 
of transmigration, atman finally comes to realize its own true nature, 
achieves liberation from sansdra or the cycle of existence, and merges 
into Brahman , Universal Soul or Consciousness, whence it arose, has been 

The original Santal conception of ‘soul’ seems to be that, after leaving 
the body, it becomes a bohga, reunites with the dead ancestors, and 
together with them becomes an object of worship. This original concep¬ 
tion stands out in practice, that is, in the Santal custom of worshipping 
the ancestral bohgas in the bhitar or family altar. The borrowed idea 
of the migration of the ‘soul’ into serma or norok kund has very little 
influence on Santal life, except partly reinforcing some of the traditional 
mores. For instance, the violation of the taboo against mentioning 
each other’s name among certain relatives, namely, bahvhharea 1 and 
ajhmarea, 1 is supposed to lead the guilty person to norok kurid where 



he will be buried in night-soil up to the neck, and eaten up by worms. 

The belief in the efficacy of the ojha guru (medicine-man) in solving 
the problem of disease is being shaken. Increasing acquaintance with 
railways, steam engines, electric lights in Santiniketan and Srlniketan, - 
and aeroplanes flying over the villages has tended to introduce new ele¬ 
ments into the behavioural world of the Santal. The dominant position 
enjoyed by fhdJcur and bohgas in the traditional Weltanschauung of the 
Santal seems to be in process of giving place to the increasing power 
of alien landlords, money-lenders, government officials, and machines. 

- 3 - 

The analysis of the changes in Santal culture shows that the same 
general directions have been followed, in the main, in Birbhum and the 
Santal Parganas. There are, however, three important points of 
difference. In the first place, though external economic and political 
forces have tended to destroy the larger units of Santal political organiza¬ 
tion in both areas, these units have been maintained by the Government 
in the Santal Parganas, though in this process the basic democratic 
character of these institutions, and the nature of their functions have 

Again, whereas the emergence of a new socio-economic class composed*, 
of officially supported mdhjhis and <parganas— headmen of villages and 
village-groups—-has led to social stratification in the Santal Parganas, 
the features of homogeneity and lack of stratification still characterize 
Santal society in Birbhum. 

Finally, though a new aboriginal movement, known as the A divdsi 
movement, has grown in the Santal Parganas, unifying the people, 
and extending to them the hope of improving their status as compared 
to non-Santal groups, the Santal of Birbhum have not only been unaffected 
by it, but the efforts of Santiniketan and Sriniketan have tended to 
make of them an integral part of local Bengali society. There are 
also certain indications (not yet clearly distinguishable) that the Santal 
peasantry of Birbhum, like those of the northern districts of Bengal,, 
might consciously link up their economic and political fate with that 
of the Bengali Hindu peasantry. Already a few non-Santal political 
workers are trying to organize the peasantry of Birbhum into peasants* 
unions cutting across all communal lines. 



This study of culture-change among the Santal indicates that though 
all aspects of Santal life have been affected by contact with alien peoples, 
yet the rate of change differs in different aspects of the total culture. 
Technology and economic life have undergone the greatest change, 
since materials used in the construction of houses, domestic utensils, 
and dress are becoming like those of the neighbouring Hindus; and both 
quantity and quality of food and drink have also undergone change. 
In the economic sphere, the relative role of the old occupations has 
changed, new occupations have come into being, and there has been 
increasing impoverishment, paralleling the economic impoverishment 
that has resulted from the contact of other aboriginal tribes of India 
with similar alien peoples. 1 

Socio-political life occupies a second place as regards departures from 
traditional practices to be observed among the Santal. The most 
important changes in this sphere are the weakening of the village 
community and pancdyat organization, the growth of a new socio¬ 
economic class of mdnjhis and parganas—headmen of villages and village- 
groups—and consequent stratification in Santal society of-the Santal 
Parganas, and the disappearance in Birbhum of the larger political 
units, namely, the Hunt-Council, the headman of a village-group (pargana) 
and his deputy (desmznjhi). The democratic political organization 
of the Santal in the Santal Parganas has been replaced by outer controls. 

The traditional democratic organization of the Santal has, however, 
shown tenaciousness in continued existence in those areas where direct 
political pressure has not been brought to bear upon it. Thus it was 
shown how at Kuotola in Birbhum, the pancdyat officials are still elected, 
and thus continue to draw their power from the village community. 

The degree of change is least in Santal religion, when this is compared 
to that in other aspects of Santal culture. In spite of the adoption 
of a few Hindu deities and festivals, and the abandonment of a few 
festivals in some districts such as Birbhum, the basic character of Santal 
religion has been seen to remain intact. The belief in Thokur and bongas 
is still strong; the most important annual festivals, and the four rites 
de passage are still observed in every Santal village. The priest and 
the medicine-man continue to act as intermediaries between the people 
and the beings of the supernatural world. 

i-Cf. for^example, Emeneau’s study of the Toda, oited above, p. 13-4. 




Though, some Santal have been converted to Hinduism and Chris¬ 
tianity, their change of affiliation has not meant a complete break with 
^earlier religious conventions. Many of the aboriginal beliefs and customs, 
not directly opposed to the new religion, have been retained. Even 
where there has been conflict between the old and the new traits, reten¬ 
tion has been made possible through the mechanisms of syncretism and 
reinterpretation, as in the syncretization of Kama with Cando in Ram 
Cando by the Hindu Santal; and the reinterpretation of Cando as 
covering the three aspects of the Holy Trinity by the Christian Santal. 

Though the different aspects of Santal way of life have sho-^n a 
differential rate of change, yet the interrelationship of the various aspects 
in the dynamics of change has not led to a disintegration of Santal culture 
as a whole. Change in one aspect, rather, has led to a concomitant 
change in another. The introduction of guns, together with the reserva¬ 
tion of forests, for example, has resulted in a scarcity of game, thereby 
changing the place of in hunting economic life. The adoption of wide 
cotton sarees by Santal women as the regular dress has led to the abandon¬ 
ment of the simple type of spinning and weaving, formerly practised by the 
Santal, and made them dependent on Hindu and Mohammedan weavers. 
The abandonment of the cultivation of jungle millets, iri and gundli , 
has led to the dropping out of the religious festival, iri gundli nauwai , 
associated with it, by the Santal of Kuotola. Again an increasing cost 
of living has resulted in the raising pc m or cash payment for .a bride 
in Birbhum. 

How change in one aspect of culture is reflected in other phases of 
their life can be further illustrated. The destruction of the democratic 
basis of the institutions of mdnjhi and pargana , and its replacement 
by officially supported headmen in the Santal Parganas, has led to the 
creation of a new socio-economic class, with a resultant increasing 
inequality in income. Spread of education in Santal society, combined 
with the increasing acquaintance' with modem industries, is reflected 
in the Santal world-view. 

Changes in religion have similarly brought about changes in other 
aspects. The Hinduized Santal, for example, are in process of giving 
up the use of beef, taking to vegetarianism, adopting the habit of 
daily baths, and forming themselves into new social castes. Again, 
the baptized Santal have been encouraged to abandon the drinking 
of rice-beer and participation in traditional dances. 

The interrelationship of the various aspects of Santal culture does not, 
however, preclude their comparative independence. Minor changes 



may take place in one aspect without affecting others. For example, 
the introduction of windows in a Santal house at Kuotola, the borrowing 
of the cultivation of tomatoes, the change in the manner of salutation 
within the family, and the adoption of the Hindu goddess Kali as one 
of the bongos or spirits have not given rise to corresponding alterations 
in other aspects of culture. 

So it may be said that the interrelationship of the various aspects 
of Santal culture is relative, and not absolute. Within this relative 
interrelationship, the degree of interdependence among the different 
aspects varies. Material culture and economic life exert the greatest 
influence on social and religious life. Changes in economic life have 
a much greater bearing on socio-political organization than on religion. 
The great influence of changes in economic life on other aspects of culture 
may be stressed by noting once again the following facts : 

(а) The weakening of the authority of the village community 

and the pancayat due to the loss of the communal ownership 
of land. 

(б) The growth of individualism as a result of the opening up of 

new avenues of employment in plantations, mines, and 

(c) The loss of Lo bir, the Supreme Court of the Santal, on account 

of the abandonment of the great annual hunt in Blrbhum. 

(d) The increase in pon or cash payment for a widow in marriage 

as a result of increasing economic pressure leading to 
an enhanced economic value of an adult woman. 

Though it cannot be said, as a general principle, that continuous 
first-hand contact necessarily precipitates radical modifications in 
culture, 1 yet the reciprocal borrowing of cultural elements in such situa¬ 
tions may be assumed when there is no good reason to take the contrary 
position. The contact between the Santal and the institutes of Santini- 
ketan and Srlniketan illustrates this point. Not only have the Santal 
borrowed the traits of tea-drinking, tomato-cultivation, compost-manure, 
and literacy from these educational institutes, but Santiniketan and 
Srlniketan have adopted Santal folk-songs and dances, and introduced 
them in their schools. Santal life has formed the theme of a number 
of beautiful poems composed by Rabindranath Thakur (Tagore), founder 
of the Santiniketan school. 

The principle of reciprocal borrowing seems to have operated through 
out the long'period of contact between the Santal and the Hindus. The 

1 * See Chapter I, p. 11. 



close cultural similarities between them, found at the present time 
can be explained only by the operation of such a principle. The similarity 
between the endogamous Santal group with exogamous paris and khut 
organisation and the endogamous Hindu caste with exogamous gotra 
and pravara organization is a case in point. As the Santal people are 
divided into a number of paris or sibs, so a Hindu caste is divided into 
a number of gotra, the members of which are supposed to be the descen¬ 
dants of a saint or his disciples. As a pans is subdivided into a number 
of khut, so a gotra is subdivided into a number of smaller groups of 
more closely related individuals, called pravara . Just as a Santal 
girl adopts the paris of her husband after marriage, so a Hindu girl 
adopts the gotra of her husband. The resemblance in the basic patterns 
of these two systems of social organization is so striking that it is scracely 
tenable to assume other than mutual borrowing as the cause. 

The culture-complex of ojhaism (magico-medical science) provides 
.another important example of reciprocal borrowing between the Santal 
and the Hindus in the past. It has already been indicated how the 
Hindus borrowed this culture-complex from the aboriginal tribes and 
developed it further. 1 

The fact that the magical complex of ojhaism, as further developed 
by the Hindus, was reborrowed by the Santal also illustrates the process 
of diffusion and rediffusion in a situation of continuous first-hand contact 
over a long period. Through such a process the development of cultural 
elements is achieved. The Santal gurus or spiritual leaders not only 
reborrowed the developed ojha cult from the Hindus, but also acted 
as agents for introducing many other Hindu practices in Santal culture, 
as hjis been evidenced by the growth of the Kharwar movement. The 
process of diffusion and rediffusion in a situation of long and continuous 
first-hand contact, as an important mechanism of cultural dynamics, 
is thus strikingly exemplified here. 

Cultural similarities to be seen between the Santal and the Hindus 
of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa, are so numerous that north-eastern India 
comprising the above three provinces may be said to form one culture area. 
A great part of the province of Assam in the eastern frontier of India 
may also be included in this area. Within its borders, the Hindus, 
Santal and allied Munja-speaking tribes, and even Moslems (the bulk 
of which are converted Hindus) are found to share many cultural traits 
in common. 

1 See Chapter VIII, pp. 114-5. 



The similarity in material culture and economic life between the 
Santa! and the Hindu peasantry of Birbhum and the Santal Parganas 
has already been noted. Some of the many similarities in the socio¬ 
religious life of these groups may be mentioned here by way of further 
illustration. The avoidance customs between certain relatives by 
marriage, the joking relationship between a woman and her husband’s 
younger brother, and between a man and his wife’s younger sister, the 
practice of arranging a marriage by the parents of the bride and the 
bridegroom through a match-maker, the importance of sindur or vermilion 
hi marriage ceremony are some of the common elements in their social 

* * 

In religion, the Santal belief in Ojak ’ bohga or household deity has 
its counterpart .in the Hindu belief in Grha-Lakshmi. The Santal 
jaheerthan or sacred grove consisting of five essential trees may be com¬ 
pared with Hindu pancavati. The number of trees in, and the sacred 
character of, both jaheerthan and panca-vati are the same, though there 
is a difference in the species of the trees themselves. The Santal Maran 
Burn, the leader of the bohgas, has its counterpart in the Hindu deity 
Mahddtva , who is regarded as the lord of spirits and beasts. Ritualistic 
importance attached to such articles as cow-dung, turmeric, and sindur 
or vermilion is also shared by both groups. Blood sacrifice is an important 
element in both Santal worship and Hindu Sakti cult (the worship of 
the Mother goddess). 

Some scholars have tried to explain these and other numerous cul¬ 
tural similarities by assuming that the Santal borrowed them from the 
Hindus. Except in certain obvious cases, such an hypothesis is not 
tenable. It has already been shown that Bodding’s idea of the Santal 
borrowing ojha science .from the Hindus is invalid. 1 ltisley’s view that 
.sindurdan (the giving of vermilion) in marriage ceremony has been 
borrowed by the Santal from the Hindus is also of doubtful validity. 2 
The importance of blood in Santal worship and the fact that a Santal 
man can forcibly many a woman by merely rubbing her forehead with 
some material having red colour, e.g., red ochre/’ indicates the great 
importance of the colour red in aboriginal custom. It may as well be 
argued that the Hindus borrowed this trait from the aboriginal tribes, 
and, in course of time, discovered sindur as a convenient red ingredient 
to be used for the purpose. Then the Santal borrowed the use of this 
particular ingredient from the Hindus. Sindurdan may have a history 

1 See Chapter VIII, pp. 114-5. 

2 JRisley, II. H .—Tribes and Castes of Bengal, Vol. II, p. 230. 

Of. ilut' bapla, described in Chapter III, p. 44. 




similar to the diffusion and rediffusion of ojhaism. During the period 
of r long contact between the Santal and the Hindus, there has been so 
much mutual borrowing of cultural elements that it is not generally 
possible to point out with certainty the original source of dissemination. 

The role played by individuals in Santal cultural change is illustrated 
by the growth of the Khanvar movement and its subsequent differentia¬ 
tion into three sects during the nineteenth century. 3 One leader, Bhagrit, 
introduced the worship of Rama and many other Hindu practices. The 
differentiation of the original movement into three sects was the result 
of the introduction of new ideas by different gurus. 

In considering the dynamics of Santal culture-change, however, 
it is apparent that material and economic factors must be given an equally 
important place with that of individuals. These two factors cannot be- 
completely isolated from each other, and have to be considered in their 
interconnection. It is true that a situation does not produce change 
by itself; that there must be some individual or individuals who take the 
initiative. On the other hand, an individual cannot force a change 
on his society unless the situation is such as to make the suggested 
change acceptable. Bhagrit and other gurus succeeded in initiating 
a number of changes only because the material conditions of the Santal 
were so desperate that they were anxious to try any means to improve 
their economic situation. The same material conditions facilitated 
the conversion of many Santal into Christianity. It is the interaction 
between the individual and the material and economic situation in which 
he finds himself that provides the driving force for cultural change, 
as the materials we have considered clearly show. 

The culture focus in the case of the Santal may be said to be a com¬ 
bination of certain aspects of the economic, social, and religious life. 
Hunting, cultivation, the four principal annual festivals of cerok ’ sim , 
sokrae, magh sun y and baha , and the village community with its pancdyat 
organization,—these are the dominant complexes which together consti¬ 
tute the Santal culture focus. The various complexes within this focal 
orbit have come under different kinds and degrees of pressure, and been 
differently affected. 

From the way Santal culture focus has reacted to external forces, 
the following inferences may be drawn: 

(a) When the pressure has been direct and overwhelming, as 
in the case of the economic constituent of Santal culture 

1 See Chapter IV, pp. 61-2. 



focus, the aboriginal patterns have yielded, paving the 
ground for radical changes. 

(6) When the pressure has been direct, but not overwhelming, 
it has offered resistance by devising circumventory means 
to retain its inner character. This is seen in the fact 
that if a non-Santal is appointed as the headman of a 
Santal village, the people usually elect a new official called 
handi-mdnjhi 1 who alone can take part in ceremonial 

(c) When pressures have been indirect, the focal area has success¬ 
fully resisted any radical change. This is seen in the 
retention of the democratic basis of the pancayat organiza¬ 
tion in Birbhum. 

The differential changes within the orbit of Santal culture focus 
have been leading to a shift in the culture focus itself. The relative 
role of old occupations has changed, and new occupations have been 
introduced. Growing indebtedness, loss of land, and the increase in 
the number of landless labourers have created acute economic problems 
which demand a speedy solution. The attention of the entire people 
is being more and more centered round these economic problems. To 
solve them new movements, economic, socio-religious, and political, 
have been developing. These movements are finding expression in 
the peasants’ unions in the northern districts of Bengal, and the Khorwar 
sects and the Adivasi or aboriginal organization in the Santal Parganas. 
Together with the Adivasi movement a strong desire for the dissemina¬ 
tion of education is taking root. In short, the old combination of 
complexes constituting the culture focus is rapidly changing, and 
giving place to a new one which is still in the process of crystallization. 

1 See Chapter IV, p. 56. 

10 ASI/54 





(Authors, to whom reference has been made in this paper, are marked 
with asterisks. Those who may be regarded as the primary source of . 
materials bearing on Santal cultural heritage have been distinguished 
by double asterisks). 

♦Aiyappan, A .—Iravas and Culture Change , Madras, 1944. 

Archer, Mildred—The Folktale in Santal Society,” Man in India , 
December, 1944, pp. 224-32. 

Archer, W. G.—“ Santal Poetr y”Man in India , June, 1943, pp. 98-105. 

Archer, W. G.—“ The Illegitimate Child in Santal Society,” Man in 
India , September, 1944, pp. 154-69. 

Archer, W. G.—“ More Santal Songs,” Man in India , September, 1944, 
pp. 141-4. 

Archer, W. G.—“ The Forcible Marriage,” Man in India , March, 1945, 
pp. 29-42. 

♦Archer, W. G.—“ Santal Rebellion Songs,” Mem in India , December, 


Archer, W.G.—“ Santal Transplantation Songs,” Man in India , March, 

1946, pp. 6-7. 

Archer, W. G.—“ Ritual Friendship in Santal Society,” Man in India , 
March, 1947, pp. 67-60. 

Archer, W. G.—“ The Santal Treatment of Witchcraft,” Man in India y 
June, 1947, pp. 103-21. 

♦Adam, James— The Religious Teachers of Greece , Edinburgh, 1908. 

♦ Atharva-Veda Sahhita, Translated by W. G. Whitney, Revision by 
C. R. Lanman, Cambridge (Mass.), 1905. 

Bascom, W. R.—“ Acculturation among the Gullah Negroes,” American 
Anthropologist , Vol. 43, 1941, pp. 43-50. 

♦Boas, Franz—Psychological Problems in Anthropology,” American 
Journal of Psychology, Yol. 21 (1910), pp. 371-84. 

♦Boas, Franz—“ The Limitations of the Comparative Method of Anthro¬ 
pology,” Pace, Language and Culture , New York, 1940. 

♦Boas, Franz—The Aims of Anthropological Research,” Race , Langu¬ 
age and Culture . 

10 ASI/54 

( 131 ) 




** Bodding, P. 0.—“ On Taboos and Customs connected therewith 
amongst the Santals,” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 
Vol. LXVII, pt. Ill, No. 1, 1898, pp. 1-24. 

Bodding, P. 0.—“ On the Different Kinds of Salutation used by the 
Santal,” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. 67, pt. 3, 
1898, pp. 35-43. 

Bodding, P. 0.—“ Ancient Stone Implements in the Santal Parganas,” 
Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. LXX, pt. Ill, No. 1, 
1901, pp. 17-22. 

Bodding, P. 0.—“ Shoulder-headed and other forms of stone implements 
in the Santal Parganas,” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal , 
Vol. LXXIII, pt. Ill, No. 2, 1904, pp. 27-31. 

Bodding, P. 0.—A Santal Dictionary, Oslo, 1929. 

Bodding, P. 0.—-“ Mongolian Race Marks amongst the Santals/’ Journal 
of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. LXXIII, pt. Ill, No. 2, 1904, 

p. 26. 

Bodding, P. 0 .—“ Some Remarks on the Position of Women among the 
Santals,” Joumal of Bihar and Orissa Research Society, Vol. I, 
pt. II, 1915, pp. 213-28. 

♦♦Bodding, P. 0.—“ The Kharwar Movement among the Santals,” 
Man in India, September, 1921, pp. 222-32. 

Bodding, P. 0.—“ The meaning of the Word ‘ Buru 9 and * Bonga 9 in 
Santali,” Journal of Bihar and Orissa Research Society, Vol. XII, 
pt. I, 1926, pp. 63-77. 

Bodding, P. 0.—“ Further Notes on the Bums and the Bongas ,” Journal 
of Bihar and Orissa Research Society , Vol. XII, pt. II, 1926, 

pp. 286-88. 

♦♦Bodding, P. 0.—“ The Santals and Disease, Studies in Santal Medicine 
and Connected Folklore,” pt. I, Memoirs of the Asiatic Society 
of Bengal, Vol. X, No. 1, Calcutta, 1925. 

♦♦Bodding, P. 0.—“ Santal Medicine, Studies in Santal Medicine and 
Connected Folklore,” pt. II, Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of 
Bengal, Vol. X, No. 2, Calcutta, 1927. 

♦♦Bodding, P. 0.—“ How the Santals Live, Studies in Santal Medicine 
and Connected Folklore,” pt. Ill, Memoirs of the Royal Asiatic 
Society of Bengal, Vol. X, No. 3, Calcutta, 1940. 



**Bodding, P. 0.—“ Notes on the Santals,” Census of India, 1931, 
Vol. I, pt. Ill, Sec. B. 

Bompas, C. II.— Folklore of the Santal Parganas, London, 1909. 

Bradley-Birt, F. B.—The Story of an Indian Upland, London, 1905. 

♦♦Campbell, A.—“ The Traditions of the Santals,” Journal of Bihar 
and Orissa Research Society, Vol. II, pt. I, 1916, pp. 15-29. 

'Campbell, A.—“ Santal Legends,” Journal of Bihar and Orissa Research 
Society, Vol. II, pt. II, 1916, pp. 191-200. 

(Campbell, A.—Superstitions of the Santals,” Journal of Bihar and 
Orissa Research Society, Vol. I, pt. II, 1915, pp. 213-28. 

Campbell, A.—“ Rules of Succession and Partition of Property as 
observed by the Santals,” Journal of Bihar and Orissa Research 
Society , Vol. I, 1915. 

Campbell, A.-—“ Santal Marriage Customs,” Journal of Bihar and Orissa 
Research Society, Vol. II, pt. Ill, 1916, pp. 304-37. 

Campbell, A.—“ Death and Cremation Ceremonies among the Santals,” 
Journal of Bihar and Orissa Research Society, Vol. II, pt. IV, 1916, 
pp. 449-56. 

Campbell, A.—Santal Folktales , Pokhuria, 1891. 

♦♦Campbell, A,—A Santali-English and English-Santali Dictionary , 
Second edition, Pokhuria, 1933. 

Campbell, J.—“ Ethnology of India,” Journal of the Asiatic Society of 
Bengal, pt. II, 1866, Special Number, Ethnology. 

Carstairs, R.— Harma's Village, Pokhuria, 1935. 

Census of India', 1931, 

Vol I, Part I, II & III. 

Vol. V, Part II. 

Vol. VII, Part II. 

Census of India, 1941. 

Vol. I, India. 

VoL IV, Bengal. 

Vol. VII, Bihar. 

Vol. XI, Orissa. 

• *, 

Chattopadhyaya, K. P.— Report on Santals in Bengal . Calcutta Univer¬ 
sity Press, 1947. 



Chatterji, S. K.— The Origin and Development of the Bengali Language , 
Calcutta University, Calcutta, 1926. 

*Chotrae DesJimanjhi Reak * Katha (in Santali), published by the Santal 
Mission of the Northern Churches, 1938. 

♦Craven, C. H. and Skrefsrud, L. 0.—“ Traces of Fraternal Polyandry 
among the Santals,” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal , Vol. 
LXXI (1903), pp. 88-90. 

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India , September, 1945. 

♦Culshaw, W. J. and Archer, W. G.—“ The Santal Rebellion,” Man in 
India, December, 1945. 

Culshaw, W. J.— Tribal Heritage , London, 1949. 

Culwick, A. T. and G. M.—“ Culture Contact on the Fringe of Civiliza¬ 
tion,” Africa , Vol. VIII (1935), pp. 163-70. 

Dalton, E. T.—“ The Kols of Chota Nagpore,” Journal of the Asiatw 
Society of Bengal , pt. I, 1866, Special Number, Ethnology. 

♦♦Dalton, E. T .—Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal , Calcutta, 1872. 

♦Darwin, Charles— The Origin of Species , London, 1859. 

♦Das, Tarakchandra— The Purums , An Old Kuki Tribe of Manipur, 
Calcutta, 1945. 

Datta, K. K.— The Santal Insurrection of 1855-7, Calcutta, 1940. 

♦Datta-Majumder, Nabendu—A Review of Iravas and Culture Change 
by A. Aiyappan, American Anthropologist Vol. 49 (1947), pp* 

Eggan, Fred—“ Some Aspects of Culture Change in the Northern 
Phillippines,” American Anthropologist Vol. 43, No. I, 1941, 

pp. 11-8. 

♦Emeneau, M. B.—“ Toda Culture Thirty-five years after : An AccuL 
turation Study,” Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research 
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♦Fiirer-Haimendorf, C, von— The Chenchus , London, 1943. 

Gausdal, G.—“ The Khut System of the Santals,” Journal of Bihar and 
Orissa Research Society , Vol. XXVIII, pt. IV, 1942, pp. 431-9, 

♦Goldcnweiser, A. A.— An Introduction to Primitive Culture , New York, 

♦Graebner, F,— Melhode der Ethnologie, Heidelberg, 1911. 



Greenberg, J. H.—“ Some Aspects of Negro-Mohammedan Culture 
Contact among the Hausa,” American Anthropologist , Vol. ‘43 
(1941), pp. 51-61. 

♦Grierson, G. A.— Linguistic Survey of India , Vol. IV, Calcutta, 1906. 

♦Hallowell, A. I.—“ Sociopsychological Aspects of Acculturation,” 
The Science of Man in the World Crisis , Edited by Ralph Linton, 
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Hallo well, A. I.— Introduction Handbook of psychological leads for 
ethnographic field workers , (unpublished manuscript). 

Hallowell, A. I.— The Role of Conjuring in Saulteaux Society , Philadel¬ 
phia, 1942. 

Hallowell, A. I.—“ Some Empirical Aspects of Northern Saulteaux 
Religion,” American Anthropologist , Vol. 36, (1934), pp. 389-404. 

Haram, K.— Traditions and Institutions of the Santals , Benagoria, 1887. 

♦Heraclitus— The Fragments of the work of Heraclitus of Ephesus m 
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♦Herskovits, Melville J.—Acculturation : The Study of Culture Contact , 
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Herskovits, Melville J .—Life in a Haitian Valley , New York, 1937. 

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♦Herskovits, Melville J.—“ Some Comments on the Study of Culture 
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♦Herskovits, Melville J.— The Myth of the Negro Past , New York, 1941. 

♦Herskovits, Melville J.—“ Problem, Method and Theory in Afro-Ameri¬ 
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Herskovits, Melville J. and Frances S.— Trinidad Village , New York, 

Hogbin, Ian—“ Culture Change in the Solomon Islands—Report on 
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10 ASI/54 




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Lowic, R. H.--“ Psychology and Sociology,” American Journal of 
Sociology , Vol. 21 (1915), pp. 217-27. 

Mair, L. P.—“ The Study of Culture Contact as a Practical Problem,” 
Africa, Vol. VII (1934), pp. 415-22. 

Malinowski, Bronislaw—“ The Present State of Studies in Culture 
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^Malinowski, Bronislaw— A Scientific Theory of Culture and other 
Essays, Chapel Hill, 1944. 

^Malinowski, Bronislaw— The Dynamics of Culture Change, New York, 

^Malinowski, Bronislaw— Argonatus of the Western Pacific , London, 

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*Majumdar, D. N.— A Tribe in Transition, London, 1937. 

*Man, E. G.—Sonthalia and Sonthals, Calcutta, 1867. 

♦Mandelbaum, D. G.—“ Culture Change among the Nilgiri Tribes,” 
American Anthropologist, Vol. 43 (1941), pp. 19-26. 

Mandelbaum, D. G.—“ Social Trends and Personal Pressures: The 
Growth of a Culture Pattern,” Language, Culture and Personality 
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Mitra, K.—“ The Originals and Parallels of the Stories in Mr. Bompas’ 
Folklore of the Santal Parganas,” Journal of Bihar and Orissa 
Research Society , Vol. XII, pt. IV, 1926, pp. 560-84. 

Mitra, K.—“ A Mikir Tale and its Santali Parallel,” Journal of Bihar and 
Orissa Research Society , Vol. XIV, 1928, pp. 139-43. 



Mitra, S. C.—“ Further Notes on Human Sacrifice among the Santa Is,” 
Journal of Bihar and Orissa Research Society, Yo\. XIV, 1928, 
pp. 147-9. 

Mitra, S. C.—On a Satyapir Legend in Santali Guise,” Journal of 
Bihar and Orissa Research Society , Vo), XIII (1927), pp. 145-57. 

Mitra, S. C.—“ The Caterpillar Boy and the Caterpillar Husband in 
Santali and Lhota Naga Folklore,” Journal of Bihar and Orissa 
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Mitra, S. C.—“ Dog-Bride in Santali and Lepcha Folklore,” Journal of 
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Mitra, S. C.—“ Further Notes on the Dog-Bride in Santali and Lepcha 
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Mitra, S. C.—“ Santal Aetiological Folktale of the ‘ Man and Fuchs’ 
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^Morgan, Lewis H.— Ancient Society, New York, 1877. 

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Parsons, E. C .—American Indian Life , New York, 1922. 

*Perry, W. J.—The Children of the Sun, New York, 1923. 

Piddington, Kalph—“ Psychological Aspect of Culture Contact,” 
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*Radhakrishnan, S.— Indian Philosophy, 2. vols., London, 1927. 

Radin, P.— The Autobiography of an Winnebago Indian , Berkeley, 1920. 

Richter, J.—A History of Missions in India, Translated by S. H. Moore, 
New York, 1908. 

Redfield, R.—“ Culture Change in Yucatan,” American Anthropologist, 
Vol. 36 (1936), pp. 57-69. 

*Redfield, R., Linton, R. and Herskovits, M. J.—“ A Memorandum 
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p. 230. 

**Risley, H. H.— The People of India, second edition, London, 1915. 

♦Rowney* H. B.— The Wild Tribes of India, London, 1882. 

Roy, S. N.—“ The Conversion of Santal to Hinduism,” Journal of Bihar 
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(1921), pp. 232-43, 351-67. 

*Schapera, I.—“ Field Methods in the Study of Modern Culture Contacts/ 5 
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Hapram ko reak 5 Katha , third edition, Bengoria, 1928. 

Siegel, M.—“ Religion in Western Guatemala : A Product of Accultura¬ 
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Smith, G. Elliot— In the Beginning ; the Origin of Civilization , New 
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Tax, S.—“ World View and Social Relations in Guatemala/ 5 American 
Anthropologist , Vol. 43, No. 1, 1941, pp. 27-42. 

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of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Language, Art and Custom , 
London, 1871. 

Wagner, G.~ “ The Study of Culture Contact and the Determination 
of Policy/ 5 Africa , Vol. IX, 1936, pp. 317-31. 

Willey, M. M., and Herskovits, M. J.—“ Psychology- and Culture/ 5 
Psychological Bulletin , Vol. 24, (1927), pp. 252-83. 

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Sonthalia and the Sonthals by E. G. Man. 





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Note : This map was prepared on the basis of population figures available in the Census Report, 1941< 



Abge Bofiga, 48, 100 
Acculturation, as defined, 6 

— , among the Chenchu, 15-6 

— , differential, 19 

— , studies, special significance of, 8 

— studies in India, 12-8 
—, Sub-Committee on, 6 
Act XXXVII of 1885, 31 
Adhi borga, 73 
Adtvad, 129 

— movement, 63, 113, 122, 129 
Adultery, 85-6, 119 

Adioa, Arioa (Sun-dried rice), 27, 102 
JErok' dm , 49, 102, 128 
Aghan, 49, 101 
Agni, 114 

A hip Pipp, Hihipi Pipfi, 21-2, 98 
Aiyappan, A., 17 
Ajay, 65, 75 
Ajhmarea, 42, 82, 121 
Akasok', 105, 120-1 
All Bengal Peasants’ Union, 63 
American Historical School, 2-5 
American Negroes, 11 
Amla, 31 

Ancestral Bofiga, 48, 100 

Andamanese, 15 

Annual Hunt (See Lo bir sendra) 

Anthropo-Geography, 2 

Apni , 97 

Argom, 35 

Aristotle, 2 

Aryans and ojhaism, 114-5 
Assimilation, 6 
Atharva-V eda, 114-5 
Atma , Atman, 121 
Ato-naeke, 46 
Austrio family, 33 
Austro-Asiatio sub-family, 33 
Avatdra, 116 

Babaji, Babajiu, 6u 

Badaga, 12, 14-5 

Bagala, 103 

Bagh Rai Parganait, 21 

Baha (Spring Festival), 49-50, 102-3, 128 

Bahna\ 87 

Bahohharea^ 42, 82, 121 
Bahre- Bonga, 48, 101 

Baihar horo, 37 

Bajra, (Sorghum Vulgare pera), 36 
Bandh, 37, 39 

Bandhgoya, liquor shop at, 74, 120 
Bapla (Santal marriage), 42, 83 

— biha, 83 

—« , seven forms of, 42-5 

Barge, 36 

Bariat, 88 

Barin, 30 

Baske, 40-1, 82 

Bedea, 40-1 

Bel (iEgle Marmelos), 26-7 
Bena (Andropogon muricatus), 98 
Bengal Legislative Assembly, 64 
Bengali middle class and tea drinking, 69 

— year, 103 
Besra, 40-1, 82-3, 96 
Betrothal, ceremony of, 88 
Bhandan , 91 

Bhagavantaru (Telugu God), 16 

Bhagnadi, 29, 48 

Bharat Seva^ram Sahgha, 116 

Bhitar (Family altar), 34, 48, 67, 100, 121 

Bhogdar, 92-3, 120 

Bhumij, 33 
Bhut, 48-9 
Bibaha, 83 

Bidhanta, Bidhi, 105, 120-1 
Bigha, 70, 72-3 
Biha, 83 

Blrbhum, population of, 65 
—, flora and fauna, 65 
Birhop 21-2 

Birth-rites (See Janam chathr) 

Bitlaha (Social ostracism), 47, 95, 105-6, 

Boas, F., 3-5 

Bodding, P. O., 51,59, 113-4, 116 
Bond-serfdom, 28, 31, 48 
-system, 25 

Bohga, 11, 28, 41, 99-102, 104-7,113, 121-3, 
125, 127 

Bofigakoren bofiga, 99 
BOrrsen, 59 
Brahman, 121 
Brahma-Samaj, 60 
Bratx-Balak, 97, 120 



Bride-wealth, 88-9, 94-5 (See also Pan) 
British School of Diffusion, 2 
Buddha, 1, 5 

Buddhism and Ojhaism, 115 
Bui may am, 105-6 
Burhi parkom, 98 

Cabhi, 75 

Coco chathr, 45, 49, 86-7 

Caharam-patni, 71 

Cakra, 116 

Campbell, A., 41, 59 

Cando, 11, 47, 102, 113-4, 116, 124 

— Bonga, 47, 113 
Carpal, 35 

Caste-structure and aboriginals, 14, 115 

— restrictions and Iravas, 17 
Coree, 40-1, 83, 96 
Cephalic Index of Santal, 21 
Cettb 14 

Census 1941, 32 
Chadaodi, 85 
Chai Champa, 21-2 
Champa, 41, 99 
Chala, 104 

— porob, 49, 113 
Chenchu, 15-7 

Chotrae Desmanjhi, 26, 28, 30 
Christian missionary, 18-9, 58-9 
Church Missionary Society of England, 58 
Cira, 67, 76 

Classical Evolutionary School, 2 
Communal control of land, 112 

— feast, 103 
Contact, duration of, 54 

— with British, 53 

— with Christianity, 58 

— with Hindu culture, 53-4 

— with Mohammedans, 53 
Contra-acculturative organization, 110 
Convergence, 3,16 

Craven, C. H., 81 
Cultural base line, 9, 18-9 

— Dynamics, 5-7 

— Dynamics, specific problems of, 9 

— focus, 10, 128-9 

— pockets, 32 
Culture area, 126 

— borrowing, role in Cultural Dynamics, 

— change and acculturation, 6 

— complex of ojhaism, 126 

Cundue' pata, 39 
Curxn, 48-9 

Dairy-complex, gods of (See Tounou ) 

Daka, 35 
Dal, 69 
Dalai, 77 

Dalton, E. T., 21-2, 39 
Damin-i-Koh, 24, 26, 30 
Damodor, 22, 120 

Daiiga, 66, 70,72, 74, [80, 100, 102 

Dar-patni, 71 

Daroga, 29 

Das, T. C., 18 

Darwin, Charles, 2 

Death-rites, 90 (See also Jafi baha) 

Deities, family, 34, 41, 104 
—, household, (See Orak y Bofoga) 

—, national, 46, 85, 90, 103-4 
—■, principal, 34, 48 

— , shining, (See Agni , Indra) 

—-, village (See Bahre Bofiga) 

Dekos, 27-8, 30 
Desmdhjhi, 46, 94, 120, 123 
Dharitn, 11, 108 
Dhartimae, 108 

Diffusion of culture, 3, 7-8 

— , process of, 115,126 

— , role in cultural change, 8 

— , studies of, and distinction between accul¬ 
turation studies, 8 

—- temporal and spatial, 3 
Dihri, 38-9 

Diseases, natural causes of/51 
Disom sendra, 38 

Divination, 51-2, 57, 104-6. 114-5 

Division of labour, 37, 78 

Divorce, cause of, 45 

—-, conclusion of, 45 

—right of, 45 

Pom, 10 

Dra vidian, 114 

East India Company, 23, 54 

East Indian Railway Loopline, 26, 60 

Ekagudia, 48-9 

Emeneau, M.B., 13-4, 17 

Epic Age, 53 

Ethno-historical method, 9, 19 
Evolution, socio-cultural, 2 



Exogamous gotra and pravara, 126 

— paris and Ichut, 40-1, 126 

Family altar (See Bhilar) 

False worshippers, 115 
Fishing expeditions, 75 

— methods, 38 
Fraternal polyandry, 17 
Functionalist School, 2, 4 
Fiirer-Haimendorf, C. V., 15, 17 

Gadba, 33 

Ganga, 23, 30, 33, 65 

— basin, 65, 114 
Gangetic Valiev, 23 
Garelamaisama, 16 

German-Austrian Culture-Historical School, 

German-Austrian School of Diffusion, 2 

Ghardi jaivae ^House-bridegroom), 42, 79, 81, 
83, 111 

— jawde bapla, 43, 83 
Ghafwal, 66-7 
Ghormuha, 48 
Gipitic ’ sendra, 38 
Goda, 36-7 

—< koro, 37 
Godet, 46, 92, 99 
Gola, 77 

Goldenweiser, A.A., 3 
Gosae era, 48, 100, 102 
Gotra, 126 
Graebner, F., 3 

Great Bear (See Burhi parlcom) 

Greenberg, J.H., 7 

Grha-LaJcshml, 127 

Guhum (Triticum vnlgarel, 110 

Gundli (Paricum miliare Lamarck), 37, 
49, 104, 119-20, 124 

Guru, 47, 88, 107-8, 113, 128 
Haeckel, E, 2 

Hsembrom, Hsemrom, 40-1, 82 
Hallo well A.I., 8, 12 
Hanapuri, 105 
Handi, 36 

— mdnjhi , 56, 129 
Hari, 113 
Hariaf sim , 49 
Hara Duttie, 21 
Harwahi, 25 

Hasdak’, 40-1, 82 
Hat dahar, 98 
Hausa, 7, 11 

Headman of a village (See Mdnjhi) 

—• of village groups (See Pargana) 

Heraclitus, 1, 5 
Herskovits, M.J., 6-7, 9-10 
High-God (See ThdJcur) 

— Ca-ndo 113, 116 
—• of Munda, 114 
—-, sacrifices to, 102 

Hindu caste (See Cefti, Bom, Ghatwal, 

— custom of smoking, 110 

— deity, 61,100, 108, 113-4 
—• epic kings, 53 
—-Mission, 116 

— origin of festivals, 49 

— panea-vail and jahcerthan, 127 
—• rite of cremation, 54 

— svarga, 121 

— theory of transmigration of soul, 121 
Hinduism, its influence on Santa], 53-4, 59,. 

62, 108-9, 113-6, 124-8 
Historic control, 9 
Historical method, 9 
Ho, 13, 17, 32-3, 58 
Hogbin, H. Ian , 12 
Holy Trinity and Cando, 11, 116, 124 
Hot, 21, 86, 101 

House-bridegroom (See Ghardi jdwae) 

Huka , 110 

Hunt Council (See also Lo bir), 123 
Hunter, W.E., 22, 24 
Hunting, place in economic life, 70 
—, principal weapon used in, 110 
Hurredgafhi, 21 
Huxley, T.H., 2 

Impinging forces and Santa! culture, 53-64 
Incest, 42, 83 
Indebtedness, 58, 111, 129 
^identification of African deities, 11 
Indian corn, 36 (See also Jondra) 

— Home Mission, 58 

— Penal Code, 57 

Indo-Aryan languages and Santali, 117 
lndra, 115 

Inheritance, rules of, 40, 78-9, 111 
Initiation as an Ojha , 52 



Initiation rites (See Caco chapter) 

Irava, 17 

Jri (Paricum Crusgalli L.), 37,49, 104, 110, 
119-20, 124 

Iri-gundli-nauwai, 49, 104, 120, 124 
Iskir, 51 
Iskoki, 11 

Islam, influence on Santal, 53 
Ituf, 45 

— bapla, 44 

Jahcer-era, 48, 99-100, 102 
Jahceiihan, 34, 48, 50, 127 
Jam (Eugenia Jambolana), 80 
Janam, 117 

Janam chatter (Birth-rites), 45, 86, 117 
Janeo, 62 

— -dhdri, 62 
Jaii-baha, 90-1 
Jan-guru, 51, 57, 104-5, 115 

Janhce (Paspalum scrobiculatum L.), 37 

Janthar, 49, 104, 120 

Jao (Hordeum vulgare), 110 

Jaj-i (Hibiscus Cannabinas L.), 36 

Jatra, 104 

Jatra pordb, 49 

Jonijati, 47 

Jhali, 75 

Jharni, 105 

Jinn , 11 

Jin, Jiwiy 121 

Jog-mdhjhi, 46, 90, 92-3 
Jog-paranik, 46 

Joking relationship, 42, 81-2, 127 
Jom sim, 49, 102 
Jondra (Zea Mays L.), 36, 70 
Juang, 33-4 
Jugia Ha^am, 26 

Kabuliwalas, 58 
Kal, 107 

Kail, 11, 100-1, 113, 120, 125 

— ghor, 101 

—, sacrifices to, 101 
Kalimae, 108 
Kambru, 108 
Kamiotl, 25, 31 
Kamru guru, 108 
Kanhu, 28-30 
Kapila, 1, 5 

Karha, 35 
Karma, 1, 121 
Karmakar, 66-7 
Karmali, Kolha, 33 
Kat khura, 52 
Khairagarh, 21 
Khafia, 32 
Kharwar, 21 

— movement, 26, 61-2, 114, 116, 126, 128 
sect, 62, 114, 129 

Khenvar (See Kharwar movement) 

Kherwari, 34 

Khety 36-7 

Khoai, 80 

Khut, 41, 82-3, 126 

— functions, 41 
—• kinship, 42 
Kirin bahu, 43 

—bahu bapla, 42, 83-5, 88 
—jaivde bapla, 43 
Kisku, 40-1,82 
Kocpi, 77 

Kopai, 74, 90-1, 120 
Kopni, 36 
Koreko, 102 
Korku, 33-4 
Korwa, 33 
Kota, 12, 14-5 
Krisdn, 72 
Krisani, 72 
Kroebar, A.L., 3 
Ksaria, 1 

Kutfam naeke, 46, 100 
Kv4i, 35 
KvUurkretee, 3, 8 
Kuotola, population of, 67 
—, origin of, 67 
Kurumba, 12, 14 
Ku\am dahgra, 49, 102 

Lady of the grove (See Jahcer era ) 
Lag Login, 26-7 
Lakshmana, 53 

Land-tenure, existing system of, 71 

Larka Kol, 33 

Lelen pata, 39, 77 

Levirate among santal, 42, 81 

Linton, Ralph, 6-7 

Lita ok', 98 



Lila, 98 

Lo bir 39, 47, 95, 120, 125 ($ee also Hunt 

Lo bir sendra (Annual Hunt), 38-9, 74, 118, 

Lohar, 38 
Lowie, R.H., 3 
Lyell, 9 

Magh, 49-50 

I&agh sim, 49-51, 102, 108 
Magic circles, 102 
Mahabir , 108 
Mahadeva, 127 
Mahajan, 25-6, 29, 31 
Mahle, Mai, 33 

MaJiua (Bassia latifolia), 33 # 36-7, 48, 50 

Mair, L.P., 12 
Majumdar, D.N., 12, 17 
Malams, 7 

Malinowski, Bronislaw, 4 
Man, E. G., 38 
Mandelbaum, D., 14 
Mandoli, 88 
Mantar, 103-6, 108 

Maraii Burn, 22, 48-9, 89, 98-9, 102, 
104, 127 

Marriage (See Bapla) 

Match-maker, 88-9 (See also Baebaric ’) 
Matkom (See Malnua) 

Mmjhi, 21, 26, 31, 34, 46, 50, 56, 87, 90, 
100, 112,122-4 

— Boiiga, 48, 99-100 
Mdnjhithan, 34, 46* 48 
Morydi, 40-1, 82 
Moras hor, 91 

Morceko, Mofceko Turuiko, 48, 99-100 
Medicine-man (See ojha-guru) 

Milky way (See Hat dahar) 

Morgan, L. H., 2 
Mul, 87 

Muncja., 11, 22, 32-3, 58, 99, 113 
—, God of, 22 

— speaking tribes, 32-3 
Muji, 67 

Murmu, 40-1, 82 
Mythical money-lender, 99 

Naeke, 46, 87, 104 

Naming Ceremony (See Nim-dak* mandi) 
Nasal index of Santal, 21 
Nau, 86, 93 
Nilgiri Tribes, 14 

Nim (Melia Azadirachta), 26, 33, 77, 87 
Nim-dak'-mandi (Naming Ceremony), 87 
Ninda Cando, 98 
fiir bohk bapla, 44 
Noapuri, 105 

Non-regulation system in Santal Parg., 31 
Norok hand, 105, 120-1 

Offering of first fruit (See Iri-gundlUnauwai) 
Ojha , 52,105-8,126 

— bidia , 52 

— guru , 51-2, 93, 100-1, 104-8, 115, 122 

— science, 52, 115, 127 
Ojhaism, 108, 114, 128 

I Orak' Boiiga, 48-9, 100, 127 
Ownership, communal and individual, 54, 
78, 92, 111, 119 

Paharia, 23-4 
Paisari, 52 

Pan-Egyptian theory, 8 
Pancayat, definition of, 92-3 

— , functions of, 46 

— officials, 46 
Paramanik, (See Paranik) 

Paranik, 40, 46, 119 
Parbati ( Pdrvatv ), 108, 113 

Pargana, 31,46-7,56, 94-5, 100, 112, 120, 

— Boiiga , 48 
Parganait, 46 

— Bagh Rai, 21 
Pans , 41, 82, 126 
Par\8panda, 1 
Pata, 49, 104, 113 
Paura, 36, 110 
Pauria, 40-1, 82 
Payas, 109 

Pocai (Rice-beer), 55, 74,177 

Pon (Bride-wealth), 45, 84-5, 119, 124-5 

— , payment of, 43 

— , reduction of, 43 
Pcra Hor , 59 

Permanent Land Settlement Act of 1793, 
54, 66, 71, 111 

Permanent Zamindari Settlement, 23, 54 
Perry, W. J., 3 



Phdlgun, 103 
Phillipine Negritoes, 15 
Phillips, J., 50 
Piddington, R., 12 

Pilcu Budhi and Pilcu Haram, 21, 40, 47, 
91, 98 ' 

Plato, 2 
Poa, 77' 

Police Rule of 1856, 31 
Polo, 75 

Polygyny and Santal marriage, 42, 81 

Por sendra, 38 

Prakrti, 1 

Pravara , 126 

Pre-Dravidian, 21 

Proto-Australoid, 21 

Provincial Legislative Assembly, 64 

Pus , 49 

Purum, 18 

Raebaric' (Match-maker), 43, 83 
Raja of Saot, 22 
Rakas, 48 
Raken, 35 

Rama , 11, 53, 61, 113-4, 116, 124, 128 
Ram Cando, 11, 61-2, 114, 116, 124 
Raranic ’, 51 
Ratzel, 2 

Rdvaria, king of Rdkshasas, 53 
Rebellion of 1855, 57, 61, 66 
Reciprocal borrowing, 125 
Redfield, R., 6 
Reinterpretation, defined, 10 
— and Santal culture, 61, 114-6, 124 
Rice-beer, 55, 59, 69, 88-9, 98, 101, 103, 115, 
118, 124 (See also Uav^di and Pocai) 
Richards, A.I., 12 
Risley, H. H., 127 
Rites de passage, 86, 90, 120, 123 
Rivers, W.H.R., 13 

Sacred grove (See Jahcerthan) 

— thread, 26-7 (See also Janeo) 

Sacrifical animals, 75 

Saket, 106 

Sakrat, 49, 102-3 

Sakam orec\ 85 

&akti cult, 127 

Sal (Shorea robusta), 28, 33-6, 39, 48, 51, 68, 
74, 80, 85, 89, 105 

Sama (Panicum colonum, Linn.), 98 

Sahkhya, 1 

Samra, 62 

Sansara, 121 

Sanction (See biplaha) 

Saiiga, 43, 83-4 ( See also Santal marriage) 

Sanskrit origin of Pancdyat, 

Thdkur and Bidhi, 91, 113, 121 

Santal agricultural season, 71 

— annual festivals, 49 
—, ancestors of, 21, 47 

— behavioural world, 122 

— bilingualism, 97 

—, Christian population of 
Blrbhum, 65 

— conception of atma, 121 

— concept of creation of 
World and Universe, 47, 9S 

— concept of life and death, 105 

— crafts, 39 

— culture, pre-British, 18-9 

— culture, pre-Hindu, 19 

— diet, 68-9, 109, 118 
—, distribution of, 32 

— dispersion, centres of, 21-4 

•— diviners (See Jan-guru and 

— dwelling-complex, 34 

— economy, 36-7, 75, 104, 110 

— folklore, 53 

— gurus, 114, 124 

— High-God (See Cando and 

— ideas about causation of 
disease, 107 

—, janeo-dhdri , 62 

— magico-medical culture com¬ 
plex (See Ojhaism) 

— marriage (See Bapla) 

—, migration of, 24, 66 

— Mission of Northern Churches, 59 

— pantheon of bohgas, 48, 99-100 

— philosophy of life, 105, 120 
—, physical characteristics of, 21 

—, political organisation of, 46, 56, 112, 
119, 122-3 

— political representation, 112 

— religion, 47, 98, 120-3 

— social life, 40, 80 

— Supreme Being (See High God) 

—, Supreme court of (See Lo bir) 



Santal— contd. 

—, total population of, 32 

— Universe, 99 

— Year, 49, 103 

Santali, 33, 63, 66, 83, 91,117 

— grammar, 59 

—, Northern and Southern, 34 
Santiniketan, history of, 60 

— and Santal culture, 12, 60-1, 67 69, 76, 
77, 96, 106, 118, 120, 122, 125 

•Saot, 22 

Ssotal, Sdotar, 21 
Sapai, 62 
Sapir, E., 3 

Sar (Saccharam cara Roxb.), 35, 74 
Saree, Sari, 68, 84, 110, 124 

Sauri (Hetecopogon Contortus R & S), 34, 55, 

Savara, 33 

Sohrae, 49, 102-3, 128 
Screen, 40-1, 82 
Scandinavian mission, 26, 59 
Schapera I., 9, 12 
Schmidt, Pater W., 3 
Scotch Free Church, 58 
Se-patni, 71 
Semang, 15 
Senna, 105, 120-1 
Share-cropping, system of, 73 
Sib (See Paris) 

—functions of, 41 
—, origin of, 40-1 
Sid, 52 
Sido, 28-30 
Sikhar, 22, 30 
Silda, 22 

Sima Boiiga, 48,100 
Sin Boiiga, 11, 47, 85, 90, 113 
Sin cando, 47, 98 
Sindur, 43, 89, 102, 127 

Sindurdan, 89-9 
Sir, 51 

Skrefsrud, L. 0., 22, 26, 59, 81 

Smith, G. Elliot, 3 

Social ostracism (See Biflaha) 

—sanctions (See Bitlaha) 

—Science Research Council, 6 
Sokha, 13 
Sonthal, 21 

Sororate among Santal, 42 
Spencer, Herbert, 2 

Spier, L., 3 

Spiritual healer (See Ojha) 

Spring festival (See Baha) 

Sriniketan, history of, 60 

— and Santal culture, 12, 60-1, 67-73, 76-7, 
93-7, 106, 108, 118, 120, 122, 125 

Staple crop, 70 

— food, 69 

Subo Thakurs, 28-9 
Sub-sib (See Khuf) 

Sumtu buhao' (Kleusine aegyptiaca, 

Pers.), 98 

Sun-dried rice (See Adwa) 

Sun God, 47, 113 
Siinum boiiga, 51, 105 

— lenolc, 39,77 

Supernatural beings of Santal, 28, 48, 
99, 105 

Supdt. of morals (See Jog-mdnjhi) 
Suruldanga Suhrd Santal School, 96 
Syncretism, defined, 10 
Syncretization and Santal culture, 61, 
113-4, 116, 124 

Taboo (Tabu) of Santal, 42, 82, 121 

Tagore, Rabindranath, 18, 60 

Taluqdars, 71 

Tapovana, 60 

Tap,, 58 

Tejo, 51 

Thdkur (High God), 11, 47-8, 53, 98-9, 
101-2, 105-7, 117, 121-3 
—, messenger of, 99 
—, principal assistant of, 98 
—, sacrifices to, 49, 102 
Thakur, Maharshi Devendranath, 60 
Theory of predestination, 121 
Tikopia, 7 
Toda, 12-5, 17 
To4or, 88 
Tounorr, 14 

Tradition of cooperation, 78 
Traditional concepts as to cau¬ 
sation of diseases, 51 

— crops, 110 

— manner of salutation ( Johar ), 82 

— occupations, 110 

— penalty for adultery, 86 

— i veltanschammg, 122 



Tudu, 40-1, 82 
ri *ui, tumi, 97 

Tuiiki dipil bapla, 43 

Turulc, 53 

Tylor, E.B., 2 

Vedda, 15 

Village council (See Pancayat) 

— headman (See Mdnjhi) 

— priest (See Naeke) 

Vishnu, 116 

Vtiva-Bhdrati , 60, 74 

Unity in diversity, 54 

Universal Soul, 121 

Utu, 53 

Wissler, Clark, 3 

Witchcraft as a cause of divorce, 45, 85 
—, practitioners of, 49, 57, 100, 107 

VaitaranJ, 31 

Vedas, 114 

Zamindar , 23, 54, 71-2, 74 

MGIPC—S6— L0 ASI/54—16-3-56—1,000. 


Above : Sectional view of Santal village 
Below : A Santal village at forenoon 


Above : The kitchen-garden of a Santal house 
Below : Temporary sheds for village worship 


Above : A Santal family at Kuotola 
Below : Santal Boys 


Above: Santal maidens 

Below : The author with a group of Santal boys 



Santal mother suckling her baby 


Above : Filling the earthen pitchers with drinking water 
Below : A Santal girl carrying water 


Above : Harvesting the winter paddy 
Belovs : A storage place for paddy 


Above : Pounding rice with a husking lever 
Below : Cooking dinner 


Above : A Santal doing his own carpentry 
Below : A Santal weaving a fishing net 


Above : Santal community fishing in the river Kopai 
Below : Santal women saluting their superiors 


Above : Santal women washing the feet of the male members 
of a bridegroom’s party just arrived 
Below : Santal women washing the feet of the female members 
of a bridegroom’s party just arrived 


Above : Members of a bridegroom’s party resting 
Below : A marriage feast 



• % . 

.'■'*• **. ; 

Above : Wrestling by Santal youngsters 
Below : Playing the flute 


Above: Santal Brati-Balak 
Below : Santal girls preparing for dance 




'# 5 * 


r jf*'* 
C 1® ’ 

, m 

Above : A group of Santal drummers 
Below : Dancing by Santal boys and girls 


Above : Dancing by Santal girls 
Below : A Santal priest (Naeke) preparing for worship 


Above : Divination with a sal leaf 
Below : A Santal possed by a bonga 


Above : Washing the feet of the village priest after a village worship 
Below : Washing the feet of the water carrier accompanying the priest 


Above : A Santal ojha offering sacrifices to bongas 
Below : A mourning scene 


List of Agents in India from whom Government of India Publications 

are available as on 1-1-56. 


English Book Depot, Taj Road. 
Modern Book Depot, 4, Taj Road. 
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Hari Har Book Depot. 

New Order Book Co., Elis Bridge. 


Bookland, 663, Madargate. 

Oxford Book Centre, Beawar Road. 
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Friends Book House, M. U. Market. 

Central Book Depot, 44, Johnston Ganj. 
Kitabistan, 17-A, Kamla Nehru Road. 

Law Book Co., P. B. No. 4, Albert Road. 

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Supdt., Printing A Stationery (U. P.). 

Universal Book Company. 

University Book Agency (of Lahore), P. B. No. 63. 
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English Book Depot. 
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Metropolitan Book Co.. Delhi Gate. 

N. C. Kan8il A Co., Delhi Gate., 

New Stationery House, Subzimandi. 

Youngman A Co. (Regd.) Egerton Road. 


Indian School of Mines & Applied Geology. 

Ismag Co-operative Store, Lta. 


The Students’ Library, D. K. Road. 


Bharat Stores. 


English Book Depot. 


Kitab Ghar. 


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Globe Traders, Arundelpet. 


Jain A Bros., M. B. Sarafa Road. 

- Saraswatl Sadan (Loyal Book Depot). 

Supdt., Printing A Stationery (M.B.). 


Parkash News Agency. 

Universal Book Stores. 


Director, Govt. Press (Publications Bureau) 

Hyderabad Book Depot. 

Swaraj Book Depot, 1368, Lakri-Ka-Pul. 


Literature Palace, 31, Sanyogitaganj. 

Rupayana, ltampurwala Buildings. 

Shri Indore Book Depot, 33, Mahatma Gandhi Road. 
Wadhwa A Co., 56, Mahatma Gandl Road. 


Garg Book Co., Tripolla Bazar. 

Rajasthan Pustak Mandir, Tripolla Bazar. 

Supdt., Printing A Sty. Deptt., Rajasthan, 

Upper India Publishing House. 

Vani Mandir, Swal Man Singh Highway. 

JAMMU (Tawi)— 

Krishna General Stores, RaghuDath Bazar. 

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Amar Kitab Ghar, Diagonel Road, P. B. No. 78. 

Bhatia Book Depot, Sadar Bazar. 


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Excelsior Book Depot. 

Hazooria A Sons, Mai HIran Gate. 

Jain General House. 

University Publishers. 

♦Hasabranoh at Khan Market in name of Bahri Sons 


List of Agents in India from whom Government of India Publications 

are available as on 1-1-56— contd. 


Advani <fc Co. 

Saliltya Nikctan. 

Universal Book Stall, The Mall. 


Malhotra & Co. 


Bharati Maudir, 31-C, Nui Basti. 


The Bhagwati Press, P. O. Thuinsitelalya. 


Maharashtra Grautha Bhandar. 


1C. It. Bros. 


S. V. Kamat, Booksellers, Kuinta N. K. 

Kurnool Funiand Agencies (Llegd.). 


Balkrishna Book House. 

British Book Depot, 84, Hazratganj. 

Law Book Agency, 29-A, Kachcry Koad. 

Literature Place, Aminabad Park. 

Kam Advani, Hazratganj. 

Universal Publishers Ltd., Plaza Bldg. 

Upper India Publishing House Ltd. 


Lvall Book Depot. 

Mohindra Bros., Katchery Koad. 


Accounts Test Institute, P. O. 760, Eguiore. 

C. Subbiah Chetty & Co., Triplicane. 

Higginbothams., K. Krishnamurthy, Mount ltoad. 
Presidency Book Supplies, 8,Pycrofls Triplicane. 

Supdt., Govt. Press, Mount Koad. 

Varadachary & Co., P. 


E. M. Gopal Krishna Kone, Shri Gopal Mahal. 

Viveka Nand Press, 48, West Masi Street. 


U. R. Shenoy & Sons, Car Street. 


M. Shcslmchalam & Co. 

Trlvani Publishers. 


Hind Chitra Press. 

Loyal Book Depot; Chhipi Tank. 

Prakash Educations Stores, Near Tehsil. 

University Book Depot. 


H. Vonkatarafniah It Sons. 

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Vcdyanidhi Building, Now, Statue Circle. 


Goyal Bros., Booksellers, etc. 


New Book Depot, Modi No. 3, Sitabuldi. 

Supdt., Govt. Printing (M. P.) 

Western Book Depot. 


Consul Book Depot. 


Ajmeri Gate Paper A Sty. Mart, 1/li-B Block, Ajn.erl 
Gate Extn. 

Anirit Book Co., Connaught Circus. 

Bhuwanani A Sons, Connaught Place. 

Bodh Raj Marwah, Shop No. 65, Push Road Market, 

Central News Agency, Connaught Place. 

Empire Book Depot, 278, Aliganj, Lodhi Road. 

English Book Stores, * L ’ Block, Connaught Circus. 
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Jain Book Agency, Connaught Place. 

Jayua Book Depot, Bank Street, Karol Bngli. 

Navyug Traders, Original Road, Karol Bagh. 

Oxford Book & Sty. Co., Scindia House. 

Kama Krishna & Sons (of Lahore), 13/13, Connaught 

Raj Book Depot, 1, Bengalimal Market. 

Saraswati Book Depot, 15, Lady Harding Road. 


Sikh Publishing House Ltd., 700, Connaught Place. 
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Taueja Books & Sty. Market, Raisina Road. 

United Book Agency, 47, Amritkaur Market, Pahar. anj 

Jain Co., Booksellers etc., Bazar Shaha Nashin 
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Shukla Book Depot, Bankipur. 

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Lakshmi Trading Co., Padri-ki-Haveli. 

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Supdt., Govt. State Emporium (V. P.) 


Cambridge Book Depot. 


Students Book Depot. 


Hindustan Diary Publishers. 


Chapala Book Stall. 

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J. Ray & Sons (India), Ltd. 

Minerva Book Shop, The Mall. 

New Book Depot. 79, The Mall. 

Sumlcr Dass & Sous, 141, Lower Bazar. 

Supdt., Himachal Pradesh Govt. Press. 


United Book Agency. 


The Kashmir Book Shop, Residency Road. 


Popular Book Stores, Tower Road. 

Shree Gajanan Pustakalya, Lower Road. 


Krishnaswaml & Co., S. S. Teppakulam. 


International Book Depot, Main Road. 


Vidya Bhawan Society. 


Venkatasubhan S., Law Booksellers 


Hindustan Diary Publishers. 

The Commercial Links, Uoveruorpct. 


M. S. R. Murty & Co. 


Gupta Brothers, Vizia Buildings. 

Govt, of India Kitab Mahal, Queeusway,'l 
Opposite India Coffee House, New Delhi. 1 

VFor ioeal 

Govt, of Iudia Book Depot, 8, Hastings! sale only. 
Street, Calcutta. „ j 

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India House, Aldwych, London, W.C.2. For ail en¬ 
quiries and 
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